I have known many beautiful horizons and some have been lines of poetry.


only language to go on

The deep appeal of poetry as an art form comes from language (text/speech) being its only means.


voice shapes and pervades

‘Voice’ may be described as the way in which personality inevitably shapes and pervades language.


not explained away

Let me interpose here this axiom of criticism: by explaining the nature of a work of art, we do not explain it away. It is an entity of direct appeal; we do not, in the process of appreciation (no process but an immediate insight) unfold the process of creation.

—Herbert Read, Form in Modern Poetry (Sheed & Ward, 1933)


stare decisis

Some formalists are like those judges and legal scholars who are too enamored by stare decisis. Blindly in love with existing laws and tradition.


who me wow

The poem the poet writes and then can hardly recognize as his own.


magnetized fragments

Like iron filings the fragments aligned toward the magnetic pole of the theme.


gravitational force

Its atmosphere may be poetically alluring in and of itself, but content is the gravitational force of a great poem.


shaping music

As do the poets, Heraclitus follows language where it leads him, where he is receptive to its inward and autonomous authority, with somnambular yet acutely lucid trust. Hence his recurrent attempts to characterize, to make us party to the twilight zone between sleeping and waking. Day melts into night, night begetting day in subversion of the trenchant Mediterranean light. There is here no distinction between philosophic or scientific finding and poetic form. The springs of thought are identical in both (poiesis). Poetry betrays its daimon when it is too lazy or self-complacent to think deeply (Valéry’s astreindre). In turn, intellection falsifies the shaping music within itself when it forgets that it is poetry.

—George Steiner, The Poetry of Thought: From Hellenism to Celan (New Directions, 2011)


higher fi

The only fidelity to truth the poem had was to sound.


instructive reading

Trust that the poem will teach you how to read it.


find it free

Free for the taking, the delight in reading a good poem that one knows only a handful of other people know exists in print.


against art books

Unless the poems are already in circulation and its a secondary publication, I have a visceral reaction against those poetry-art books that have to be handled with gloves and cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars for a limited & signed edition. I have an urge to violently dogear those pages, to intentionally spill coffee on such ‘projects’.


not so fast

The poem seemed pretty straightforward, then you started to translate it.


remember and forget

Louise deserted literature as soon as she realized that Jonas was interested only in painting. She dedicated herself at once to the visual arts, visiting museums and exhibitions, dragged Jonas to them though he didn’t quite understand what his contemporaries were painting and felt bothered in his artistic simplicity. Yet he rejoiced to be so well informed about everything that concerned his art. To be sure, the next day he forgot even the name of the painter whose works he had just seen. But Louise was right when she peremptorily reminded him of one of the certainties she had kept from her literary period, namely that in reality one never forgets anything. His star decidedly protected Jonas, who could thus, without suffering in his conscience, combine the certainties of remembering and the comforts of forgetting.

—Albert Camus, “The Artist at Work,” Exile and the Kingdom (Vintage Books, 1957), translated by Justin O’Brien


no pulse

Every line he wrote was a flatline.


wonk this way

He feared he was becoming a poetry wonk.


in the novel's shadow

A poet who must overcome the notoriety of his novels. [Thinking of Thomas Hardy.]


poet present

There are people who write and publish poetry, and there are poets. It’s never hard to tell the difference when in the presence of the latter.


fluid state

A line so fluent it flirted with invisibility.


working into my own, unknown

The first seven drawings are from a group that I made in 1915-1916 when I first had the idea that what I had been taught was of little value to me except for the use of my materials as a language—charcoal, pencil, pen and ink, watercolor, pastel and oil. The use of my materials wasn’t a problem for me. But what to say with them? I had been taught to work like others and after careful thinking I decided that I wasn’t going to spend my life doing what had already been done.

I realized that I had things in my head not like what I had been taught—not like what I had seen—shapes and ideas so familiar to me that it hadn’t occurred to me to put them down. I decided to stop painting, to put away everything I had done, and to start to say the things that were my own.

This was one of the best times in my life. There was no one around to look at what I was doing—no one interested—no one to say anything about it one way or another. I was alone and singularly free, working into my own, unknown—no one to satisfy but myself.

—Georgia O’Keeffe, Some Memories of Drawings (Univ. of New Mexico Press, 1988), edited by Doris Bry, first published as limited edition portfolio in 1974.


wrong from the gitgo

He was never going to write the right poetry.


slew of new

There seem to be an astounding number of innovative poets, all of them being ‘innovative’ all at once.


less to nothing more

A poem revised right out of existence.


linger lines

Compelled to linger among these lines.


strange engagement

Language is a part of us—but strange to us.

—Ian Hamilton Finlay, “Table Talk of Ian Hamilton Finlay,” Selections (U. of California Press, 2012)

Also see "Little Sparta".