what's in a name

If I could steal another poet’s name, I’d lift Walter Savage Landor. Just saying that name makes me feel like I'm about to write a major poem.


shape in space

A poem should have a physique, an armature; it should cut a figure.


intransigent matter

A poet intent on breaking down the most unpoetic material: To yield gold from the least promising ore, in that way the poet is not unlike the alchemist working with intransigent matter.


live free or die

Full-time poets live for free residencies: A long-term house sit or caretaker position, an artist colony invitation, all ideal. But even a squat in an abandoned building will do in a pinch.


selfish sin

The personal idiosyncrasies that creep into a work of art are not essential; in fact, the more we have to cope with these peculiarities, the less is it a question of art. What is essential in a work of art is that it should rise far above the realm of personal life and speak from the spirit and heart of the poet as man to the spirit and heart of mankind. The personal aspect is a limitation—and even a sin—in realm of art.

—Carl Gustav Jung, “The Poet”


verse tweezers

A couplet: verse tweezers used to present an image or a thought held in its squeeze of rhyme.


word museum

Already the poem was becoming a word museum.


no box for that

It seems a thing must first have a category before it can be criticized.


rogue editors

Breaking News [July 21, 2010]: Rogue poetry editors at The Paris Review accepted scads of hideously unpublishable poems. So much bad poetry was accepted that a replacement editor and turnaround specialist known as “Chainsaw Robyn” had to be called in to clean up the mess. One assistant editor at The Paris Review was reported to have said, “It’s just scandalous; I can’t find a single poem by one of my friends among these previously accepted submissions.”


by rights justify

A prose poem justifies itself by resorting to the right margin.


hot hand

A good poem is perhaps just a winning streak of lines.


image of note

                  Then is blown,
Cooling the air with shaded petal-waves,
The great sound-blossom of a temple bell.

—Mary McNeil Fenollosa (1865-1954), “Midsummer in Tokio," Out of the Nest: A Flight of Verses (Little, Brown, 1899)


flip turn

Constraint of the verse line: With each flip-turn, a swimmer gains power pushing off from the pool wall.


hand built

Quote found today at the Ken Matsuzaki exhibit at Pucker Gallery on Newbury Street in Boston:

I spent twenty years throwing on the wheel, but eventually I left it to hand-build, one-by-one, the forms I had in my heart. I began to think that it was important to first know what I wanted to make and only then worry about developing the techniques by which to achieve it.

—Ken Matsuzaki, Burning Tradition: Ceramics by Ken Matsuzaki, exhibit catalogue Pucker Gallery in Boston, June 2008, translated by Andrew L. Maske


more than nine

Poetry has been killed so many times it has passed cats for number of lives.


better not best

Her poetry wasn’t hard to like; but it was difficult to admire. [Thinking of Kay Ryan]


poetic leap

The poet must not cross an interval with a step when he can cross it with a leap.

—Joseph Joubert, Joubert: A Selection from His Thoughts, trans. by Katharine Lyttelton, quoted in The World in a Phrase (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2005) by James Geary


word farm

Poet, be a word farmer.


stylist on ice

A great stylist must have a substantive substrate. It’s not thin ice upon which she carves those elaborate figures, executes those flawless axels.


birds of a feather

An exultation of skylarks, a murder of crows, a workshop of poets…


floating window

The lyric is a floating window at large in the world, stopping here or there long enough to frame a scene, to allow a certain action to unfold within its constrained vista.


immovable attitude

I have an attitude now that is immovable. I shall remain outside of the world, beyond the temporal, beyond all the organizations of the world. I only believe in poetry.

—Anaïs Nin, August 22, 1936, Fire: From "A Journal of Love, " The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1934-1937 (Mariner Books, 1996)


new old poet laureate

When the famous poet got the call from the Library of Congress, he said something like, "You know I'm honored to be asked. But you also know I've gotten pretty much every prize and award that matters in my long career. You need to pick somebody a generation or two younger than me. Might I suggest these worthy poets______________."

Only a fantasy for how one could gracefully decline an honor one deserved but didn't need.


think again

I hear they’ve been ‘rethinking poetics’. I hope this isn’t going to be an annual event.