wherever the end

The last lines of almost any poem, because they are the ending, will by default seem a grand summing up or a reaching for epiphany. Had the last few lines been anywhere else in the poem they’d be seen as much less portentous.


fragile construct

Too fragile for its flaws, perhaps you were wise not to revise the piece.



Block: The page a snowfield, deep and unmarked to the far edge.


not a hill or a tree

Objective painting is not good painting unless it is good in the abstract sense. A hill or a tree cannot make a good painting just because it is a hill or a tree. It is lines and colors put together so that they say something. For me that is the very basis of painting. The abstraction is the most the definite form for the intangible thing in myself that I can only clarify in paint.

—Georgia O’Keeffe, 1977

[Quote encountered today at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, NM.]


finish it

The poem that wouldn’t give up on me.


first marks

No line is harder to write than the first line in a new notebook.



Think of the crumpled poem as the creator’s fist going down swinging.


petting zoo

It was the kind of workshop that is more of a petting zoo for new poems.


step-ladders and demon-traps

Most writers—poets in especial—prefer having it understood that they compose by a species of fine frenzy—an ecstatic intuition—and would positively shudder at letting the public take a peep behind the scenes, at the elaborate and vacillating crudities of thought—at the true purposes seized only at the last moment—at the innumerable glimpses of idea that arrived not at the maturity of full view—at the fully matured fancies discarded in despair as unmanageable—at the cautious selections and rejections—at the painful erasures and interpolations—in a word, at the wheels and pinions—the tackle for scene-setting—the step-ladders, and demon-traps—the cock’s feathers, the red paint and the black patches, which, in ninety-nine cases out of the hundred, constitute the properties of literary histrio.

—Edgar Allan Poe, “The Philosophy of Composition,” 1846, 19th Century American Writers on Writing (Trinity U. Press, 2010) , edited by Brenda Wineapple


stand clear

Sometimes the content is so inherently poetic that all the poet must do is to keep the language from getting in the way of the telling.


no room for pseudonym

Put your name on a poem: The poem is your name.



Poet, detonate denotation!


house to house

Two weeks before Christmas, a group of poets went out ‘caroling’ their poems. Some doors were slammed, but many homes welcomed them.


come who may

An accidental audience is all the poet can hope for.


sharp rebound

Complex and subtle interests, which the mind spins for itself may occupy art and poetry or our own spirits for a time; but sooner or later they come back with a sharp rebound to the simple elementary passions—anger, desire, regret, pity, and fear; and what corresponds to them in the sensuous world—bare, abstract, fire, water, air, tears, sleep, silence, and what De Quincey has called the ‘glory of motion’. [99]

—Walter Pater, “Aesthetic Poetry,” Essays on Literature and Art (J.M Dent & Sons, 1973)


skyline features

A few poems in the book stood like skyscrapers against other low-rise structures.


through or over

As a medium or as the messenger are two ways the poet can carry out her/his social mission.


aphoristic aphrodisiac

The villanelle: a form made to order for the aphorist.


hop along

The meter felt a little off kilter; it was a line with a limp.