requisite forms

Fixed forms for those who need them.


inside and out

A poetry insider is a society outsider.


skinny volumes

Because I’m a poet, I have read many thin books and a few big fat ones.


not going anywhere

Critic-proof: the words impervious and entirely set in their ways.


absolute and mortal


Its nature is to look
                               both absolute and mortal
as if a boy had passed through
or the imprint of his foot
                                        had been preserved
                   under the ash of Herculaneum.

—Carl Rakosi, The Collected Poems of Carl Rakosi (National Poetry Foundation, 1986), p. 186


where did that come from

An anomalous element that comes to define the poem.


standing stones

Sometimes I see headstones standing in cemeteries and they remind me of books displayed in bookstore windows.


a dolphin swims under a rainbow

the haiku journal editor
openly admits his bias against
'dolphins' and 'rainbows'


speak for themselves

As we say in a hand of poker, ‘the cards speak for themselves’, and so it should be with a poem, the words should speak for themselves.


imperial interference

Haiku eschews metaphor, simile, or personification. Nothing is like something else in most well-realized haiku. As Bashô said, “Learn of a pine from a pine.” Learn, that is, what a pine tree is, not what it is like—one supposes this is what Bashô meant. This avoidance of metaphor or simile arises, I feel, from the poet’s need to render directly and concretely the vision he has had, and only that vision. Almost he seems to aim at the paring down of his medium to the absolute minimum, so that the least words stand between the reader and the experience! The result can be what Babette Deutsch has called a “naked poem” as she noted in speaking of the art of William Carlos Williams: “Not merely rhyme and metre but sometimes metaphor itself became an imperial interference between him and the sun.”

—Kenneth Yasuda, The Japanese Haiku (Chas. L. Tuttle & Co, 1957)


big box

A prose poem: big box o’ words.


lashing the unruly waters

Those lines of poetry lashing forth with great fury. The poet like Xerxes having the Hellespont whipped with chains, to no avail.


edgy performance

He was so avant-garde he went straight to the edge of the proscenium and fell off the stage into the crowd.


sleepy head

Those first few lines were still wiping the sleep from their eyes.


writing thaw

It was wonderfully warm & pleasant & the cockerels crowed just as in a spring day at home—I felt the winter breaking up in me & if I had been at home I should have tried to write poetry.

—Henry David Thoreau, manuscript volume 18 of the Journals


stepping stones

A critic walks on the backs of writers across the waters of discourse.


heroic couplets

Is it just me, or is there an echo in here?


idols of the lexicon

Avoid all false idols, like words.


don't look back

A line so good the one that followed was looking over its shoulder.


moral compass

“I can’t imagine an immoral person bothering with poetry," [Lucien Stryk] shoots back, “and by ‘immoral,’ I’m not talking about trivialities. I mean in the largest sense, in the way the person relates to the world, his spirit. In the poets that affect me, there is always that element of desire and hope.”

I thirsted for seasons,
dragging a leaden shadow
into nothingness. Now,

as fire meets ice, I see.

[from “Lake Down”]

—Lucien Stryk, quoted by Susan Porterfield in “Poetry and Lentil Soup: A Profile of Lucien Stryk,” the afterword of Where We Are: Selected Poems and Zen Translations (Skoob Books, LTD, London, 1997) by Lucien Stryk