darwinian word

Emerson opined that words are ‘fossil poetry’. But the trick is to naturally select those Darwinian words which will manage to stay out of the fossil record.


te-hee to he-haw

His work provoked a wide range of emotion, from a slight smile to a full guffaw.


breakout book

A poet who believed one book would make all the difference.


backyard poetry

August 6, Saturday afternoon. A thunder storm in Brooklyn after days of heat and humidity. I lie on my bed enjoying it, noticing the rain running down the bark of the tree outside my window. Charles [Reznikoff] would have enjoyed that. Backyard poetry, he wrote a lot of it. Backyard but not sentimental: the trees, the bark, the oblong light in the darkness scrupulously observed. That is what the Objectivists had in common. (Though Charles once told me that all they had in common when they first met was the state of being unpublished and an admiration for the dos and don’ts that Ezra Pound was publishing in Poetry magazine.)

—Harvey Shapiro, “Remembering Charles Reznikoff,” Charles Reznikoff: Man and Poet (National Poetry Foundation, 1984) edited by Milton Hindus


crafted carelessness

One felt a crafted carelessness that made it difficult to surrender to those odd collocations of imagery and outright tonal collisions.



People may have a differing opinions about these simple instruments that turn a football stadium into a hive of sound, but there is hardly a word more fun to say than ‘vuvuzelas’, and hardly a better one-word poem during this time of the FIFA World Cup.


by net or gaff

You’re gonna need a net or gaff to land that last line.


always fashion fails

It took only a decade for ‘impure forms’ to begin to bore.


attack syntax

A syntax that will not impede the speed of thought.


center will not hold

Without poets, without artists, men would soon weary of nature's monotony. The sublime idea men have of the universe would collapse with dizzying speed. The order which we find in nature, and which is only an effect of art, would at once vanish. Everything would break up in chaos. There would be no seasons, no civilization, no thought, no humanity; even life would give way, and the impotent void would reign everywhere.

—Guillaume Apollinaire, "On Painting," The Cubist Painters (1913)


all for one

Let’s all be avant-garde together.


broken wing

Each line flopped over like a broken wing, as the poem kept trying to fly.


mental matter

To a conceptualist it’s not about the act/art; it’s about the thinking about the act/art.


blurb substitute

Instead of blurbs, print this on the back of the book: “What are you looking for back here? Embarrassingly extravagant endorsements, conviviality, cronyism? Crack open the book and read a couple poems.”


no return point

From a certain point on, there is no more turning back. That is the point that must be reached.

—Franz Kafka, The Z├╝rau Aphorisms (Schocken Books, 2006), translated by Michael Hofmann



Writing that breeds readers.



A linebreak like the horizon is a visual illusion, yet becomes important aurally.


old maps

They come to poetry expecting much. And for a time language itself delivers all: They write some good poems, garner a little attention; a few poems accepted for journals, a chapbook, perhaps a full collection comes out. They are ours in ars poetica. But then the disappointments begin to mount. The taste of success is found to be exactly that. And they are gone, faded back into the general populace, with a few poems tucked away in a folder somewhere, old maps from their travels through the unforgiving country called poetry.


woven basket

Line after line the poem intricately woven of sound and rhetoric, a beautiful basket that could hold anything or nothing at all.


well ordered

A semantic Mandarin, in his poems all the words knew their place in the household.