removed from spoken language

The value of the language of poetry is directly proportional to its being removed from the spoken language. This is what common people cannot understand, since they do not want to accept the fact that a poet endeavors to express only the unutterable.

—Vicente Huidobro, “Poetry,” lecture delivered at El Ateneo de Madrid, 1921, The Poet is a Little God (Xenos Books, 1990), translated by Jorge García Gόmez.


the breaks

A linebreak as a means to semantic attention or syntactic surprise.


written tune

The poem being all music and no gist, made me wonder whether it would have been better whistled rather than written.


inadvertent advert

So often listed in poets' bios, more poets knew the name of the literary magazine than ever read the magazine itself.


frail reasoning

Much of the poetics one hears about ‘the line’ amounts to grasping at straw.


color drained from them

Words go wan before experience.


walk and talk

I was from German and Scandinavian working farmer/logger/fisherman world of pre-WWII Puget Sound, Allen from the New York City Immigrant Left. We met in a backyard in Berkeley, and again in Kenneth Rexroth's wood-floored apartment in the foggy Avenues zone of San Francisco...We argued a lot and were not easy on each other. I made him walk more, and he made me talk more. It was good for both of us.

—Gary Snyder, introduction to The Selected Letters of Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder (Counterpoint, 2008)


stay with it

To reveal the mystery within the real without resorting to metaphor.


greasy and slick

Slathered with unctuous blurbs, the book felt uncomfortably sticky to the touch.


stress no less

When you say this is ‘blank verse’, are you talking only about the poem’s meter?


could hear it coming

You could drop that noisy last line like a bad muffler.


no feet


Don’t ask me to write with my feet
He replied
When they accused him of being too intellectual

—Nicanor Parra, “XXIX,” After-Dinner Declarations (Host Publications, 2008), translated by Dave Oliphant


dangerous crossing

The poem could only cross this line at its own peril.


craft's limit

Where and when the resources of craft run out, art must sustain.


no family resemblance

Everywhere critics keep finding heirs to the childless Whitman and Dickinson.


rogue prose

The poem as reprobate prose.


flickering effects

Like Constable, Tomlinson admires accidents because they are governed by laws, however difficult to fathom (just as his poetry careens between seeming laxness and the occasional inevitability of rhyme and meter); he most values the peculiar combination of revelation and concealment brought about by changes of light in a landscape. The pleasure of seeing and then rendering, whether in paint or in language, the unstable, flickering effects in an external scene “discovers” (his word) one’s true identity, allowing the artist to become himself only during the moments when he is actively engaged in reproducing his passive observations. What we see uncovers what we are; what we are defines what we discover. By using as an epigraph to his poem Constable’s own inquiry into the relation between science and painting (“May not landscape painting be considered as a branch of natural philosophy, of which pictures are but the experiments?”), Tomlinson implicitly asks whether landscape poems might not constitute equivalent experiments.

—Willard Spiegelman, “Just Looking: Charles Tomlinson and the ‘Labour of Observation’,” How Poets See The World: The art of description in contemporary poetry (Oxford U. Press, 2005)


mind museum

Looking at paintings/photographs helps one fill a mind museum of fine images.


follows the money

After his death, the poet’s reputation slipped in proportion to the fewer pages in major anthologies carrying his work, which in turn was a result of the hefty fees his rights holders asked for permission to reprint his poems.