brick shithouse

A rock-solid block of words.


poem wins again

poem v. email; poem v. grocery list; poem v. recipe; poem v. washing instructions tab; poem v. job application; poem v. annual report; poem v. diner menu; poem v. text message; poem v. shooting script; poem vs. ingredients label; poem v. new great american novel; poem v. highway sign; poem v. last will & testament; poem v. prayer; poem v. headstone...


do you want to do

Actually, what I am consuming so happily is an absence: a paradox anything but paradoxical, if we remember that Mallarmé made it the very principle of poetry: “I say: a flower and…musically there rises the fragrant idea itself, the one missing from all bouquets.”

The fifth subject is the subject of production: the one who wants to re-produce the canvas. Thus this morning, December 31, 1978, it is still dark, it is raining, everything is still when I sit down at my worktable again. I look at Hérodiade (1960), and I really have nothing to say about it, except the same platitude: I like it. But suddenly something new appears, a desire: the desire to do the same thing: to go to another table (not the one where I write), to choose colors and to paint, to draw. Ultimately the question of painting is: “Do you want to do a Twombly?”

—Roland Barthes, The Responsibility of Forms (U. of California Press, 1991), translated by Richard Howard


otherwise unavailable

One never to be seen at another poet’s reading.


ore words

Like Mallarmé he mistakenly thought poems were mined from the dictionary.


blurb exuberance

"On the nose, this explodes with intense aromas of freshly sliced granadilla joined by notes of lemon curd. Hints of geranium and just mowed lawn, with suggestions of asparagus braised with tarragon, rise from the glass to add intrigue and complexity to the top notes."

Aren’t most blurbs like the descriptions of wine?


strong contrast

A bauble image. A burned retina image.


sacred disorder

The worn-out ideas of old-fashioned poetry played an important part in my alchemy of the word.

I got used to elementary hallucination: I could very precisely see a mosque instead of a factory, a drum corps of angels, horse carts on the highways of the sky, a drawing room at the bottom of a lake; monsters and mysteries; a vaudeville's title filled me with awe.

And so I explained my magical sophistries by turning words into visions!

At last, I began to consider my mind's disorder a sacred thing.

—Arthur Rimbaud, “Alchemy of the Word,” Une Saison en Enfer (A Season in Hell, 1873), translated by Paul Schmidt (Harper & Row, 1976)


short shelf life

A poem full of fad words, some already starting to fade.


dream stream

Poetry: the dream that reality can’t break.


let's get lost

Poets are a little too liable to let their poems get lost.


book byways

I trust that in my haphazard scholarship I’ll be reading books others are not.


two originals

Every poem that works as a poem is original. And original has two meanings: it means a return to the origin, the first which engendered everything that followed; and it means that which has never occurred before. In poetry, and in the poetry alone, the two senses are united in such a way that they are no longer contradictory.

—John Berger, The Sense of Sight (Vintage International, 1985)


memory poems

I know a few poems by heart. And I feel a few in my gut.


words gone astray

A poetry that threatened the language with the prospect of a new dialect.


emergent poems

Blaahn…blaahn…blaahn…This has been a test of the Emergency Poetry Broadcast Network. Had this had been a real disaster poetry would begin broadcasting constantly from this station.


having words

Poetry is in a running argument with the lingua franca.


metaphor making truth

The pure adventurousness of making metaphors and poems is a condition that must be felt to be believed. I remember how tremendously excited I was when I first formulated to myself the proposition that the poet is not to be limited by the literal truth: that he is not trying to tell the truth: he is trying to make it.

—James Dickey, “Metaphor as Pure Adventure,” Sorties (Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1971)


know the worth of each word

A poet is a language miser. That is, he spends each word carefully, thoughtfully.


make something of yourself

Why do so many poets interpret the charge ‘Write what you know’ as ‘Tell me your life story’? ‘Writing’ is not telling. And to ‘know’ involves more than one’s experience.