protective structure

A poem so obviously structured it was like receiving a gift still in its crate.


closed in upon

Was that a close reading or a closed reading of the poem?


different readers, alternate lines

Reading his commonplace book, I discovered we had read many of the same books, yet lines he had chosen to quote I’d passed over without notice.


substition of terms: two bricks, two words

Architecture starts when you carefully put two bricks together. There it begins.

—Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (New York Herald Tribune, 28 Jun 1959)

Poetry starts when you carefully put two words together. There it begins.


just nubs

The stunted lines.


inspired listening

One can entertain any beliefs one likes with regard to the sources of poetry, but whether it is God-given, daemonically inspired or willed by self, one has to be a poet before one can write poetry; if one is not a poet one merely entertains these beliefs and nothing more. Whether one deals with religious or poetic inspiration, with Grace or with any other manifestation of extraordinary power, ‘the spirit bloweth where it listeth’, and in order to hear, one must be capable of listening and of attention.

—Joseph Chiari, Realism and Imagination (Barrie & Rockliff. London. 1966)


this then and not that

A poet who unfailingly knew what to say and when to say it, and most of all what should be left unsaid.


kayak tongue

Let your kayak tongue drop into the rapids of speech.


buoyed on the great body

Is it that from the great ocean of the oeuvre a few canonical poems float to the top, or is it that a great body of work will buoy a few poems that we hold on to?


from on high

It wasn’t just inspiration, it was a download from heaven.


bring a heavy thing


i know

i can bring

every heavy thing


—MairĂ©ad Byrne (originally posted to her blog Heaven on 6-1-2008)


blinds drawn

Ruled paper: That window with the blinds drawn.


unhurried hand

It was the kind of poem one felt had been written in pen, in longhand.


desciption's diminishing returns

With detail and description there is always the law of diminishing returns: At a certain point the language becomes an intricate, often beautiful, damask that occludes all beneath its surface.


we have a runner

Why are you writing like you’re running away from yourself?


inner and then more

All great poems...by the way they colonize and amplify and enhance the music of our own inner voices, of consciousness and conscience, ask us to be greater than we are, and if we read them well even show us how to begin.

—C. K. Williams, On Whitman (Princeton U. Press, 2010)


well layered language

A sonnet of fourteen-ply strength.



The poem you had in mind must often remain there.


not there at first glance

To shape the universal theme into a particular form (case) that one will not at first recognize, but will come to realize upon reflection.

pastoral not paradisal

The kind of pastoral poetry in which one might come upon some shotgun shells lying in the grass.