write it, live it

You give up too easily on literature’s power to alter lives.


fear of falling

With white knuckles the letters of the poem clung to the page, fearing they’d be knocked off the anthology page at any moment.


not lost in spectacle

…it’s notable that the making of and participation in poetry is so independent of high technology. A good sound system at a reading is of course a great advantage. Poetry readings can now be heard on tape, radio, recorded on video. But poetry would get lost in an immense technological performance scene. What poetry can give has to be given through language and voice, not through effects of lighting, sound, superimposed film images, nor as mere adjunct to spectacle.

—Adrienne Rich, “Someone is Writing a Poem,” What is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics (W.W. Norton, 1993)


war never over

Every so often a seemingly sensible person will try to raise again that tired argument that ‘free verse is not poetry’ because free verse lacks regular meter and/or rime. These people are like those few Japanese soldiers who were left stranded for years on remote Pacific islands, unaware that many years before Japan had surrendered, they were still prepared to fight, ready emerge from their dugouts and caves in the jungle to wage a war that was long over.

[See description of holdouts.]


poverty without poetry

When I think of all ways in which chance led me to poetry, and I think of how easily I may have missed this art, no matter my occasional frustrations and even exasperations with my own writing, I know my life would be so much poorer without poetry, and I’m thankful down to my core for poetry.


going low

Reading bad poetry helps you understand all of what it takes to make one good poem.


vital organs

Certain words pulse like organs in the poem’s body.


work song

As one labors through revision one listens for the echo of the original inspiration.


that stance

Too personal, too political, too plain…I loved—and love—his [Etheridge Knight’s] work because of the overwhelming passion, the variety of form, and the exact appropriateness of the language. I almost didn’t realize the nervousness, the “calm hysteria” of the poems, their unity of voice, and their overwhelming political stance. It’s almost as if the poet—and his poems—were so grounded, so authentic, that I took that stance for granted. Thus spoke Etheridge; thus was Etheridge. I almost took for granted the magnificent art.

—Gerald Stern, “Etheridge Knight,” Stealing History (Trinity Univ. Press, 2012)


uncommon readers

Most of the avant-garde’s audience consists of mainstream poets. Because they're the only ones who can meet the work at least halfway.


shipping lines

The good ship poem sailed on.


not open for business

The first line was like one of those ne’er-do-wells loitering mid-morning in front of the liquor store waiting for the doors to open.


jack gilbert

They Will Put My Body Into the Ground

They will put my body into the ground.
Chemistry will have its way for a time,
and then large beetles will come.
After that, the small beetles. Then
the disassembling. After that, the Puccini
will dwindle the way light goes
from the sea. Even Pittsburgh will
vanish, leaving a greed tough as winter.

—Jack Gilbert, Monolithos: Poems 1962 and 1982

[My friend Jack Gilbert (1925-2012) passed away this morning in Berkeley CA.]


silent witness

Is my reticence regarding certain subjects equivalent to a resistance to the truth?


oblique reference

No poet ever travelled in search of beauty. No poet ever looked at a scene and cried ‘Wonderful’. Memorable beauty comes at us obliquely while we are going about our troubled business.
The pursuit of beauty is one of the defects of the tourist’s point of view. The tourist is in a hurry; he demands quick returns of the picturesque and the obvious. But for all that, it is possible even when we pursue beauty or happiness to come upon oblique references to it. The job is to recognize them in the hurry.

—Patrick Kavanagh, title essay of A Poet’s Country (The Lilliput Press, 2003), edited by Antoinette Quinn


welding torch song

A poem welded together by word sounds.


cleaning house

The anthologist was guilty of aesthetic cleansing.


remember this

Regard those recurring memories. They are trying to tell you something.


poet in the sun

Last night was the Seventeenth Wallace Stevens Birthday Bash at Hartford Public Library. Jay Parini delivered a vibrant and flowing talk taking us through about six of Stevens' poems, making a case for how Stevens uses a poetic 'code', with certain words representing maker/poet, reality, imagination. Parini traced how this poetic code was present in Stevens' poetry since the very beginning.

A poem Parini made note of was the concluding section of "Notes Toward A Supreme Fiction," in which these lines appear...

    Soldier, there is a war between the mind
    And sky, between thought and day and night. It is
    For that the poet is always in the sun,

    Patches the moon together in his room
    To his Virgilian cadences, up down,
    Up down. It is a war that never ends.


sewn into

Poet, write so that the words are stitched to the page.