against the dark


Against the dark night
a glowing screen
and a blank page.

by José Emilio Pacheco
(translated by Margaret Sayers Peden)

Mexican Writers on Writing (Trinity Univ. Press, 2007), edited by Margaret Sayers Peden.


wait for it

Often a single miracle is performed at an open mike.


words equal to life

A passage achieves quotation when there’s an equation between its words and experience.


sound scape

Longhand: The sound of words being scratched out (in both senses) on paper.


sales and tales

The poet was a memoir monger.


words that we need

Songs are thoughts which are sung out with the breath when people let themselves be moved by a great force. . . When the words that we need shoot up of themselves, we have a new song.

Orpingalik, an elder of the Netsilingmiut (Netsilik Eskimo), cited in “The place where you go to listen,” by J. L. Adams, Terra Nova: Nature and Culture, 2(3), 1997, 15-16.

[Qoute encountered in Lines: A Brief History (Routledge, 2007) by Tim Ingold.]


reaching for

Each line seemed to be an arm reaching out in the dark.


poetry reading poetry reading

Is there anything worse than hearing a poem about a poetry reading at a poetry reading?


a fin

Prose is all cartilage / poetry a fin.

—John Olson, from “Marsden Hartley’s Gloves,” Backscatter: New and Selected Poems (Black Widow Press, 2008)


same poem

They asked why he kept writing the same kind of poem. He said it was the kind of poem he liked.


comb through

I could feel those lines of poetry comb through my soul.


entropic poetics

It starts with those arbitrary and disassociative sequences which turn to random fragments; randomness leads to entropy, and entropy to boredom.


time stamped

Where some see avant-garde and mainstream, I just see poets scrambling and scraping, trying to write poems that will stick beyond the contemporary.


quid pro no

The poet has no responsibility to the critic. The critic tries to pay a debt by proving he/she owes nothing to the author.


luminous detail

Ezra Pound makes the distinction between “multitudinous detail*” and “luminous detail” in a poem, the latter being that image that suggests so many others because it is connected somehow to the world, the universe, the collective experience of any number of people. We can make a list of all the images we remember from eighth grade, and try to fit as many possible into a poem (the multitudinous method), or we can try for those few that glow with connections, that suggest others (the luminous method). So many lasting poems are made of recollected, luminous detail.

—David Citino, “Tell Me How It Was in the Old Days,” The Eye of the Poet: Six Views of the Art and Craft of Poetry (Oxford Univ. Press, 2002)

*Ezra Pound, Selected prose, 1909-1965, William Cookson ed., New Directions, 1973, 22.


hive poem

Opening the anthology, I realized the canonical poem was almost humming, as though it was now just a hive of critical voices.


relative value

I’d rather own the best work by a minor artist than one of the lesser pieces by a great one.


erase or raise

You hear about a lot of poetry projects involving erasure from existing texts. But no one seems to use the caret…inserting additional material into a source text. Perhaps it’s easier to electively erase. Harder to hoist the banner of one’s own words within the text of another.


larger interests

As just sounds and marks I wouldn’t care a whit for words.


border war

Two writers fighting for the limelight of who is most liminal.


not embarrassed

Millay has been overlooked by the critics of our time until very recently. Two new biographies have ushered in an era in which, I trust, Millay will be brought back into the light she deserves. In all my undergraduate and graduate courses in the seventies and eighties, she was never mentioned, but The Collected Poems, a hardback, given to me by my father one Christmas when I was in college, has been on the shelf by every desk at which I have ever written a word. When I read “Renascence”—her juvenilia, really—I am not embarrassed, either for her or for me. She was learning how to write and I was learning how to read. We started thinking big. We knew, or thought we knew, that for a women’s writing to be taken seriously, we should aim for the “universal,” and what is more universal than all the human cries that ever cried? It is not a sin to overwrite. That is another thing she taught me: not to be embarrassed by large feeling, and not to be embarrassed to let your reader know of that large feeling.

—Robin Behn, “In the Music Room,” Planet on the Table: Poets on the Reading Life (Sarabande Books, 2003), edited by Sharon Bryan and William Olsen.


poet second

Paul Valéry, a poet known almost entirely for his poetics and aesthetic thought.


bigger than that

A theme that couldn’t be reduced to a single word or a short phrase.


who's zoomin' who

Poets rightly fear the powers of their translators.


freedom of information act

As readers we may ask on what, and how many, levels are we allowed to engage this poem. We won’t always get an answer, but we get to ask.


bright birds yet unseen

I hear a hitherto unknown species of bird has been found in the forests of Malaysia. Scanning my bookcases I feel certain there are bright and rare poems yet undiscovered behind those spines. But as wonderful as they are, only human encounter makes them existent.


chute to the unknown

He tended to end a poem with a line that was like pulling the lever to a trapdoor.


find the grain

In his long life (seventy-six years) Oppen wrote little prose and fewer than 300 pages of verse. If we have more of him than we have of Catullus, it’s not by much. He prized what took time, found the grain of materials, exacted accuracy. He’d been a tool-and-die maker and a cabinet worker. He once interrupted some blather about Biblical translation by remarking that what they needed for the job was a carpenter: no, better: “a Jewish carpenter.”


     Leaving the house each dawn I see the hawk
     Flagrant over the driveway. In his claws
     That dot, that comma
     Is the broken animal: The dangling small beast knows
     The burden that he is: he has touched
     The hawk’s drab feathers. But the carpenter’s is a culture
     Of fitting, of firm dimensions,
     Of post and lintel. Quietly the roof lies
     That the carpenter has finished. The sea birds circle
     The beaches and cry in their own way,
     The innumerable sea birds, their beaks and their wings,
     Over the beaches and the sea’s glitter.

[poem by George Oppen]

—Hugh Kenner, “George Oppen: In Memoriam,” Poetry Project Newsletter, Oct. 1984 , Mazes: essays by Hugh Kenner (North Point Press, 1989).


not about words

Afraid the poem would be about something, the poet wrote what amounted to nothing but words.



He couldn’t write the long poem because he could always see the end from the start.


end this mess

It wasn’t that the poem was looking for an epiphany; it was looking for any kind of ending that would make sense of what came before.


exercise room

Trying to teach poetry with the ‘freeing strictures’ of exercises/prompts.



taste and timelessness

How shifty a thing taste can be, how shitty, even one’s own. I tremble to remember the poets, like Elizabeth Bishop, I dismissed out of hand, whose greatness dawned on me only later. Then there are poets I once admired and who opened ways through thickets for me, but whose work now I find clumsy and shiftless. I think we all tend to believe we can see through the vagaries of our moment to some absolute standard of judgment—this must be a characteristic of human consciousness itself—but the conviction is absurd. So, I never blab anymore about poets whose work doesn’t or no longer moves me. But there are, however and thank goodness, poets the power and force of whose work once nearly knocked me down with delight and envy, and still does, so that when I read them again I feel again like an apprentice.

—C. K. Williams, “On Being Old,” In Time: Poets, Poems, and the Rest (U. of Chicago Press, 2012)


word poor

A poem afflicted by vocabulary deficiency syndrome.


failing better

It was that kind of poem wherein all its evident failings pointed to a bright future for the poet’s further efforts.


meaning grounded

The poet imagines he can escape the realm of the semantic.


look back askance

Craft is always retrospective.


hidden transmitter

A good poem will always continue broadcasting from an undisclosed location.


alien point-blank green


Home from Guatemala, back at the Waldorf.
This arrival in the wild country of the soul,
All approaches gone, being completely there,

Where the wild poem is a substitute
For the woman one loves or ought to love,
One wild rhapsody a fake for another.

You touch the hotel the way you touch moonlight
Or sunlight and you hum and the orchestra
Hums and you say “The world in a verse,

A generation sealed, men remoter than mountains,
Women invisible in music and motion and color,”
After that alien, point-blank, green and actual Guatemala.

— Wallace Stevens, Parts Of A World (1942)

Yesterday afternoon was the 18th Wallace Stevens Birthday Bash at Hartford Public Library. Guest speaker Bonnie Costello featured this poem in her talk entitled "Traveling with Wallace Stevens." In his work as a surety bond lawyer for the Hartford Accident & Indemnity Co., Stevens traveled extensively in the U.S. for a time, but he never traveled farther than Key West.


site and vector

The subject matters: A matter of perspective or approach.


arrogant tyrant

Confronted with unruly language, the poet has the arrogance of Xerxes at the Hellespont. He’ll whip with chains that flow & flux of language to no avail.


refuge for the real

Poetry as the last refuge for those still possessed with a feeling for what is real.



The anemic criticism of one who has clearly not read beyond the contemporaries.


point on the horizon

The linebreak as a vanishing point you can’t quite see beyond.


price and peril

I’m going to read you his [Baudelaire’s] poem called The Albatross. It’s a famous poem, and rightly so. Here is the poet before the awful pride carried away his hopes. Here is the poet as misfit and vulnerable. Behold, as Nietzsche wrote, the man!

   Sometimes, to entertain themselves, the men of the crew
   Lure upon deck an unlucky albatross, one of those vast
   Birds of the sea that follow unwearied the voyage through,
   Flying in slow and elegant circles above the mast.

   No sooner have they disentangled him from their nets
   Than this aerial colossus, shorn of his pride,
   Goes hobbling pitiably across the planks and lets
   His great wings hang like heavy, useless oars at his side.

   How droll is the poor floundering creature, how limp and weak—
   He, but a moment past so lordly, flying in state!
   They tease him: One of them tries to stick a pipe in his beak;
   Another mimics with laughter his odd lurching gait.

   The Poet is like that wild inheritor of the cloud,
   A rider of storms, above the range of arrows and slings;
   Exiled on earth, at bay amid the jeering crowd,
   He cannot walk for his unmanageable wings.

This poem, I think, captures the poet and the predicament in the same net. Here is the price—and the peril. The journals say nothing that the spirit-bird of this verse does not soar above, and leave far behind. This verse stands as a tribute to the ravishing, indelible, undeniable, body of what he was able to accomplish during his short time on earth. The belled reminder of his star-graces, after all that subterranean din.

—Yahia Lababidi, The Artist As Mystic: Conversations with Yahia Lababidi (Onesuch Press, 2010) by Alex Stein.

*Richard Howard translation, Les Fleurs Du Mal, Charles Baudelaire (Godine, 1985)


serifs, filigrees and flourishes

Without a compelling subject the poet always overcompensates with style.


rote tales

The myths are all musty. To echo Sam Goldwyn, “What we need is some new myths.”


over and under

A competently handled translation transcends the original as often as it fails to meet the original on equal terms.


half measures

Poets write criticism as though they were unaware of all the resources of prose.


person first

I go to the reading to experience the personality behind the poetry, not for the performance of the poetry.


real sentiment

     Remind me how we loved our mother’s body
     our mouths drawing the first
     thin sweetness from her nipples

     our faces dreaming hour on hour
     in the salt smell of her lap Remind me
     how her touch melted childgrief

     how she floated great and tender in our dark
     or stood guard over us
     against our willing

Women performing traditional roles are no longer to be ridiculed but rather understood as products of an oppressive order, with, even so, valuable qualities. The terms of evaluation chosen here may strike some readers as verging on sentimentality, but definitions of sentimentality are always culturally determined: it is not a timeless, abstract quality. (When the word “sentimental” was coined in the eighteenth century, it was used in praiseful contexts.) Direct expression of tender feelings in these lines is no doubt part of the women’s aesthetic Rich has been searching for; in any case, the poem has renounced most of the irony and intellectual artillery of her earlier work. If writing tenderly means losing some readers, Rich is prepared to do so, on the chance that she may be making available feelings formerly dismissed as unacceptable for art. Any occasion for reexamining aesthetic strictures ought, of course, to be welcomed. Do we go to poetry mainly to sharpen the psychic (or conversational) defenses useful in daily life or to gain access to feelings we haven’t, for whatever reason, acknowledged?

—Alfred Corn, “Contemporary Poetry’s Mother Tongues,” Atlas: Selected Essays, 1989-2007 (University of Michigan Press, 2009)


image in motion

Depicting a movement, a gesture, an action rather than a static image.


rewarding difficulty

Often the first reaction is to complain of a poem’s difficulty when you could as easily praise it for rewarding you with time for pensive consideration.


only the work


there is only the work.

The work is what speaks
and what is spoken
and what attends to hear
what is spoken

—William Bronk, Death is the Place (North Point Press, 1989)


running ahead

To let the words run a little ahead of the mind’s composition of them.


motion pictures

A poet so adept with images the poems seemed like shooting scripts.


nothing more to say

Some poems are graves. You can do little more than leave them.


slows it down

One of the great practical uses of the literary disciplines, of course, is to resist glibness—to slow language down and make it thoughtful. This accounts, particularly, for the influence of verse, in its formal aspect, within the dynamics of the growth of language: verse checks the merely impulsive flow of speech, subjects it to another pulse, to measure, to extralinguistic consideration; by inducing the hesitations of difficulty, it admits into language the influence of the Muse and of musing.

—Wendell Berry, Standing by Words (Counterpoint, 1983)


case image

The image should be case in point of what is impossible to explain.


shuttered poem

The lines like louvers shut tight against all air and light.


notional value

The dream of a word with a meaning equal to experience.


poetry reading patter

Not matter the merits of the poetry itself, no denying he was a master of the poetry reading patter.


grief strikethrough

It wouldn’t be right if you didn’t suffer a pang at striking certain phrases.


sting's library

Did you grow up with a lot of books?

Sting: We only had two in the house, an illustrated Old Testament and Volume 1 of Encyclopaedia Britannica. I was well versed in everything from “aardvark” to “azimuth,” but little else. The public library became a sort of refuge. I never throw a book away now. I have kept every dog-eared paperback I have ever read. Books are the only things I’m acquisitive about. And no, I don’t lend my books...join the library!

“Sting: By the Book,” interview in New York Times Book Review (September 19, 2013)


ta tum ta tum ta tum ta tum ta tum

The line's meter like a street with speed bumps.


wallpaper poetry

The poetry book was a wallpaper sample book. Full of nice patterns and lovely colors, comfortable to live with.


obsess and haunt

It is the mysterious that I love painting. It is the stillness and the silence. I want my pictures to take effect very slowly, to obsess and to haunt.

—William Baziotes, “Notes on Painting,” It Is (No. 4, Autumn, 1959)

It is the mysterious that I love poetry. It is the movement and the silence. I want my poems to take effect very slowly, to obsess and to haunt.


long cast

The long line cast as though by a fly rod over the stream at a shimmer or shadow just under the surface.


sound heavy

He had so much similar rime going on in the poem, I suggested he should ‘echonomize’.


poetry encounter

I know it as poetry when I encounter those compressed expressions marked by nuance, impossible to explain adequately in prose.


good for too

When a good couplet comes together it’s the simultaneous orgasm of language.


dedication denied

A couple hours later, at Pegasus Books on Solano Avenue in Berkeley, I’m not particularly happy either. I’m hunkered down in the poetry section and see two of my books on the shelf: Home Course in Religion and Junior College. I open the first book to the title page, where I have personalized the copy to Claire. Who was Claire? I wonder. I open the second book, which I’ve apparently dedicated to Toby. Perhaps Toby was Claire’s dog?

I leave the bookstore, my shadow tagging along as if it were a friend. At home I count my blessings. My teeth remain in neat rows and my knuckles continue to knock on doors—I do possess ambition. I’m thin. I’m courteous when it counts. I have a wife who loves me almost all the hours of the day.

But I do notice that the hair on my scalp has thinned and my once muscled chest is now part of my padded abs. I’m losing some of myself, piece by piece. My legs, however, still stand with me, two faithful troopers. And my talent remains: at the count of three, I can whip the horse inside me and begin down a path in search of a poem. True, it was only last week I received a rejection slip from a literary magazine in the Midwest no one has heard of, but still!

—Gary Soto, “Reporting On Our Bodies,” What Poets Are Like: Up and Down of the Writing Life (Sasquatch Books, 2013)


attica, attica

A word that’s stuck in the poem and seems to know it doesn’t belong there. Yet its uneasy fidgetiness gives energy to the whole poem.


fantasy while awaiting one's turn

I read my poem and everyone in the circle puts down his/her pen. Folding their hands almost in unison, they all lean forward, listening intently, as though hoping more words will be spoken. And then I awoke from my daydream during workshop, awaiting my turn.


ideal vessel

After reading an almost perfect one, it’s hard not to think of the sonnet as poetry’s ideal vessel.


bonbon mots

The poem served as a tray of bon mots.


unappeasable pursuit

But there is another kind of adequacy which is specific to lyric poetry. This has to do with the ‘temple inside our hearing’ which the passage of the poem calls into being. It is an adequacy deriving from what Mandelstam called ‘the steadfastness of speech articulation’, from the resolution and independence which the entirely realized poem sponsors. It has as much to do with the energy released by linguistic fission and fusion, with the buoyancy generated by cadence and tone and rhyme and stanza, as it has to do with the poem’s concerns or the poet’s truthfulness. In fact, in lyric poetry, truthfulness becomes recognizable as a ring of truth within the medium itself. And it is the unappeasable pursuit of this note, a note tuned to its most extreme in Emily Dickinson and Paul Celan and orchestrated to its most opulent in John Keats, it is this which keeps the poet’s ear straining to hear the totally persuasive voice behind all the other informing voices.

—Seamus Heaney, “Crediting Poetry,” Nobel Prize lecture (1995).

[Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)]


art of questionable character

Poetry is literature’s vice. When critics admonish the current state of poetry for its lack of social acceptability, for its recalcitrance, we know the art is going wrong in a good way.


singular dialect

The poet invents a language within the language.


volume seller

It was such a book mill, it was hard to tell if the press was promoting good books or book glut.


strong source

A shaft of light is to darkness what a line does to silence.


thought before going to bed

Anyone can escape into sleep, we are all geniuses when we dream, the butcher's the poet's equal there.

—E.M. Cioran, The Temptation to Exist (U. of Chicago Press, 1998), translated by Richard Howard.


sound bound

Chained to those word echoes.


saw-toothed song

Lines jazzed by their jaggedness.


payment in kind

For their readings poets should paid with a decent bottle of wine, or, for the non-drinkers, a fruit torte from a local bakery would be nice recompense.


not like what but like wow

A simile should not be apt so much as it should astound. Nothing worse than a simile that's simply true in an explanatory sense.


ever restless

If my words aren’t startling, death itself is without rest.

—Tu Fu (712-770 AD), quoted in the introduction to The Selected Poems of Tu Fu (New Directions, 1989), translated by David Hinton.


word house

Once he encountered that word, in that moment he knew he’d have to build a poem to house it properly.


hard to walk the talk

Often it's the case that the poetry is overmatched when put up against the poet’s prose thinking about poetry.



This just in: Kenneth Goldsmith has countered his critics who have called his project, “Printing Out The Internet,” an act of inane insanity. Goldsmith has recontextualized the whole project as Eco-Conceptualism, or a radical act of recycling, making the current Internet irrelevant. He was quoted as saying, “We’ll have ‘the book’, so to speak, a warehouse full of printed matter to consult. No one will need to turn on their computers to access the Internet, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, and all that energy and imagination being used to feed the beast with new content, like cute cat videos, will be saved, thus saving our planet in the process.”


slouches toward allusion

Yeats’ ‘slouches’: A single word, verb in this case, becomes an allusion all by itself. Certain words are owned by canonical authors.


blurb lifevest

The bubbly blurbs tried to float the book atop the vast gray main.


mystery and mastery

[Re: “Villanelle: The Psychological Hour” by Ezra Pound]

The poem sustains its sonic composure in the face of an onslaught of inexplicable experience, and the shock of the final line, in which Pound shatters this tone by naming himself, depends on the fact that the information presented earlier in the poem feels inadequate or even irrelevant. If we knew what event had been overprepared, if we knew the identity of the man and the woman, if we knew where there had been dancing, then the uneasy thrill of the poem’s most blatantly referential line would disappear.

     Dear Pound, I am leaving England.

As we process that line, our experience of the poem mirrors the experience described in the poem. We feel intimate with what we do not fully comprehend—a feeling that is commonplace in human life, conspicuously in dreams, but rare in our experience of art because we expect to be the master of the poem we read. Mystery, says the poem, is a far more human condition, than mastery. And mystery, which depends on clarity, is the opposite of confusion.

—James Longenbach, “Less Than Everything,” The Virtues of Poetry (Graywolf Press, 2013)


deftly alluded to

To touch in those allusions that will color and enhance rather than cloud and obscure the passages.


tactics of bad critics

First, select the worst passage from the poet’s book/oeuvre, and then scale that up, magnify it, shine an unforgiving spotlight on it, until it’s made out to be a grotesque representation standing for the poet’s life-long output.


dogged ear

Poet, be a sound hound.


over exposed

Often the poem wears out its material before it exhausts its exposition.


harper's logan lite

After reading this piece in Harper’s, Poetry Slam, being an avid reader of contemporary poetry, criticism and reviews of same, my first response was to the by-line: Who’s he, I said to myself, and why am I interested in his critical take on the state of contemporary poetry? I still can’t answer that one. From a quick check of Edmundson’s credentials (on-line) I determined that, other than being an English professor at a major university, he seems to have little or no background in the field of contemporary poetry (which becomes evident by the poets he cites and his severely limited viewpoint). Edmundson is neither a poet actively engaged in the art, nor is he a well-published critic or reviewer of contemporary poetry.

What was Harper’s agenda in publishing this piece of drive-by criticism? To stir things up among contemporary poets? Not the biggest playground to trot out an unknown no-nothing bully onto. I guess someone more qualified, like William Logan, wasn’t available. Because I think of Edmundson as a William Logan wannabe, one who is trying to take a shortcut to the role of naysayer without doing the requisite reviewing, the thrashing and trashing, that Logan has done over the years.


let none set asunder

The metaphor is an unholy yoking that somehow holds true.


forces equal

First a workshop should be a force-field of informed and attentive intellects, one that the poet recognizes her/his poem must be strong enough to resist.


world view

after Bronk

to gather

a world —

not the


—Joseph Massey
Big Bridge #12


lost then found

Many, many poems must be lost in order that a few may be found, and remembered.


bio note

He is a wildly-unanthologized poet whose work has not appeared in Poetry, APR and The Paris Review. Critics have been unable to find fault with his work because they’ve been unable to find any. His prizes include a blue ribbon earned in the third grade for the poem “Lollipop” and the $100 scratch-off lottery card he got at the gas station.


concept emotes

A conceptual poem needn’t lack emotion.


just jossing

Wallace Stevens once quipped (in his “Adagia”), “Poetry is a kind of money.” Which always makes me wonder, What kind of currency?: Confederate?, counterfeit?, or joss money? Yes, joss, I think I can smell it burning to favor the dead.


gauging the language

As long as a reader can feel through the language that the poet knows something important is going on, the reader will go along. As soon as the reader senses that what is behind the language is trivial, all is lost.


zero point

It is evident that poetry shares with all speech that is language-like an incompetence with respect to consummatory states of experience. All indicators of temporaliity—including the present tense—signify distance from the origin of experience…As evidence of this, consider the following very simple observation: there are many poems of not yet having (petitional poems, as it were, or poems of seduction), and there are also poems (though proportionally to the first type many fewer) of having had (doxological poems as it were, e.g., the aubade). But there are no poems (certainly no Western poems) situated upon the zero point of having, of union just so. At that moment, the coincidence of consciousness and experience, language disappears and with it representation as depiction….

—Allen Grossman, “Hard Problems in Poetry, Especially Valuing,” True-Love: Essays on Poetry and Valuing (U. of Chicago Press, 2009)


eternal singer

Whenever I hear the personal I-lyric denigrated by this or that theoretical notion, my mind flashes on Sappho, and like Solon (the Wise) I think I’ll die happy.


trading deadline

The MFA program traded its masthead Pulitzer Prize winner, a prima-donna by all accounts, for two poets with Pushcarts and a Lannan fellow to be named later.


voice over vanity

For me, poetry is the voice that supersedes vanity. To concentrate exclusively on “American poetry” can ignore the vast expanse of immigrant sounds bearing punctuated rhythms or haunting, free-floating tunes. Music introduces the meaning, and carries languages both harsh and melodious, its premonitions understood only in retrospect.

—Laura Manuelidis, "The XYZ of Hearing: The Squid’s Ink,” Poetry (July/August, 2013)


conceptual life

Vanessa Placeholder, until something better comes along.

[See: "Poetry is dead, I killed it"]

random acts of poetry

When he got back to his parked car, he thought he’d been given a ticket, but someone had stuck a poem under one of the wiperblades.


uses of erudition

A scholarly erudition employed for uncovering versus a speculative erudition used for discovery.


information please

It’s not that the poetry was prose that was the problem. Good prose can equal or even exceed poetry on many levels. The problem was that this particular prose was unwilling to give up its inherent attachment to information: prose with its natural empathy for the reader’s need to know more. Poetry is always too ready to ignore the reader’s need for information.


parodic critic

Is criticism only a kind of parody? A secondary text that even as it calls into question marks itself as quasi.


went through

Only one thing remained reachable, close and secure amid all losses: language. Yes, language. In spite of everything, it remained secure against loss. But it had to go through its own lack of answers, through terrifying silence, through the thousand darknesses of murderous speech. It went through. It gave me no words for what was happening, but went through it. Went through and could resurface, 'enriched‎’ by it all.

In this language I tried, during those years and the years after, to write poems: in order to speak, to orient myself, to find out where I was, where I was going, to chart my reality.

—Paul Celan, "Edgar Jené and The Dream About The Dream," Collected Prose (Carcanet, 1986), translated by Rosmarie Waldrop


redundant dummy

Why does the introducer read a whole poem by the poet he’s about to introduce?


title peel

The title was a bad roof in need of a tear off.


working on the short game

When did I put aside the idea that one day I’d start a novel?


dashed lightning

Dickinson without her dashes, like Zeus sans thunderbolts.


no shopping list

And so poetry is not a shopping list, a casual disquisition on the colors of the sky, a soporific daydream, or bumpersticker sloganeering. Poetry is a political action undertaken for the sake of information, the faith, the exorcism, and the lyrical invention, that telling the truth makes possible. Poetry means taking control of the language of your life. Good poems can interdict a suicide, rescue a love affair, and build a revolution in which speaking and listening to somebody becomes the first and last purpose to every social encounter.

—June Jordan, June Jordan’s Poetry for the People (Routledge, 1995), edited by Lauren Miller.

[Quoted from Illuminations: Great Writers on Writing (T&WBooks, 2003), edited by Christina Davis & Christopher Edgar.]


unusual suspects

The unexpected character proves to be the strongest poet, the strongest reader.


as though entitled

I struck through the word only because it seemed a bit too pleased and comfortable in its place.


unnecessary information

Always the temptation of more than enough information in a poem that tells a story.


no waiting in this world

Poet, don’t wait for inspiration, initiate through experience.


fixed xp

Let's just say he was fixedly inside the experimental camp.


sound and structure

And I'd done a lot of reading. James Huneker on music. And a lot of poetry—Milton, Shelley, Whitman. Robinson Jeffers came along in the '20s or later—he was tremendous. I liked Milton for the same reason I liked Jeffers, the sound and the structure. I don't believe anything that Milton wrote about, but it has a wonderful presence.

—Ansel Adams, from in his last interview, ART NEWS, Volume 83/No 6, interview by Milton Esterow.


no echo

When a good poet and good person has died, it feels as though a great hole in the earth has opened and it will give back no echo.

[R.I.P. Kurt Brown]


scale counts

There are wild, unwieldy poems that can survive many ill locutions, and then there are seemingly perfect poems that fail because of one wrong word.


lost critical grip

Driven to critical distraction by the poem.


any end

A last line so perfect one felt it would fit under any of a thousand poems.


party crashers

The poem was a wild party of words, where you imagined some words were eyeing one another, thinking how did he/she get in here.


phrasally compounded

Phrases, rather than clauses, must be the units of expression. This was Blake’s mode of choice in most of his work, from The French Revolution through Jerusalem.

[…] Sentences were more phrasally compounded, less clausally complex than ever before or since. Nouns and adjectives, in natural consequence, strongly dominated verbs and took over verb meanings. Sounds, like sentences, stressed not limits, periods, bounds, and conclusions as regular feet, line forms, rhymes, and stanzas would do, but rather interior units and correspondences, in echo and onomatopoeia. Reference stressed the objects and qualities of such sensory concern, the scenes, atmospheres, and feelings which could be onomatopoetized, the natural and human items of emotional description with their minor and parallel actions of observation and acceptance.

We may think Blake as too active, rebellious, and eccentric to use such material; yet we find it basically his. What additions he made to it were…not so much changes as extensions of the basic material. He increased the characteristic reference to color, scope, and feeling; he increased human anatomizing, scenic atmosphere, and passive and expressive verbs. He used a fuller load of substantives and descriptive declaration, and a freer play of interior sound. He liked what he had, and carried it further in its own realm.

—Josephine Miles, Eras and Modes In English Poetry (U. of California Press, 1957)


good enough and dogged

Publication is but a modicum of talent combined with persistence.


after rilke

The interior decorator scanned my living room strewn with books, and asserted, “You must rearrange your life.”


nothing to be said

When a true poem is spoken silence is often the only response.


published in air

A poet whose poems were only published in air—that is, read aloud.


ingathers only to disgorge

The poem is reservoir for anything, for everything, only to become font of life, love and loss.


recurrent words

Whitman: arm, beautiful, body, city, come, day, death, earth, eye, face, full, go, good, green, great, hand, hear, joy, know, land, life, light, long, look, love, make, man, night, old, pass, poem, real, rest, rise, sail, sea, see, ship, sing, soul, stand, strong, sun, take, thing, think, time, voice, war, woman, word, work, world, year, young

From Appendix B: "Words Most Used By Ten Poets,"
Josephine Miles, Eras and Modes In English Poetry (U. of California Press, 1957)


gathering floodtide

Some poems start with the force of a wave crashing, while with others we must allow the first few lines to slowly build the momentum of the poem, each passing line gathering the weight of more words taken up in the flow.


seed catalog

I know somewhere in my notebook there are few words waiting for the kind of attention that would have them flower into a full poem.


required letters

To write this poem, you’re almost going to need a new alphabet.


time sensitive

Different times different poems: A poem written late at night. A poem written at first light.


high-five rimes

Let’s just say his rhymes were so predictable and ringing that I thought of them as high-fiving one another.


second trial

Interestingly enough, the best words ever spoken of Howl were said at its obscenity trial in the moment of its emergence. During the second Eisenhower administration things were culturally very tight, and artists and critics, recovering from the McCarthy era, rushed to the defense of a poem attacked by the Establishment. Rarely has an unknown poem by an obscure poet known such high praise before it has been assessed by the scholarly community. But as soon as the trial was over and the battle won, a reverse set in. The poem began its work of effecting a critical reevaluation of the course of poetry, and the defensive reaction was intense. For a few years you could hardly find anyone who would say a good word for it, but gradually its liberating role was effected, and it has emerged as the guerdon of its generation.

—William Everson, Archetype West: The Pacific Coast as a Literary Region (Oyez, 1976)


faced with nothing

And then the page went limp as white cloth, floated up and settled over your face as though a shroud.


time and materials

Anything can be art, and some of it is.


azure free zone

[Philip Levine] was blunt and categorical in his statements. He introduced the class to Hemingway’s notion of a “shit detector.” He pointed to the use of “azure” in a student’s poem. “Question: When is the last time you heard the word ‘azure’?” A few students fidgeted uncomfortably. “Answer: The last time you did a crossword puzzle.”…Fake language made bad poems.

—Mark Levine, “Philip Levine,” in Remembering Poets, Poetry (March 2013)


terms of engagement

A good critic, particularly one who is a poet, puts his/her aesthetics aside in order to properly engage another poet on his/her own terms.


person of interest

Perhaps when we speak of ‘voice’ what we’re hearing through the language is the poet’s character. In ‘talk poetry’ what we too often get is caricature or the cartoon outline of a person behind the poem.


first reading

A poem is at its best in its first reading.


lower the volume

For the most part, good poets are humble not hortatory.


jolly roger

Poet, hoist high the pirate flag of your poem.


or at least saying

And poetry, to my understanding, is not about saying things, though obviously poems that have interesting things to say are more interesting than poems that don’t. And it is not quite accurate to say that they are about dramatizing the act of saying things or, in the case of an inward poetry, thinking things or, in a quicker and more visceral poetry, perceiving and sensing things. Or at least saying that poetry does these things only takes us partway into them. To go the rest of the way, one needs a formulation that somehow says that poetry inhabits the interior of the rhythm of its way of seeing, its way of dramatizing what it is to say a thing, or think it, or perceive it, or—taking writing as an act of painting—do it.

—Robert Hass, “On Teaching Poetry,” What Light Can Do: Essays on Art, Imagination, and the Natural World (Ecco, 2012)


roses that are looked at

"the roses / Had the look of flowers that are looked at." So goes a line from the "Burnt Norton" section of T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets. For twenty years that line was in my mind as, "the roses had the look of roses that are looked at." Perhaps some Steinian involution had inflected my memory. I think I like my version better.


truth and beauty

The poet averred her sincerity and the truth of the poems when she read, but then I bought her new book and I saw that her author photo was at least ten years out of date.


audience of one

A poet who never attended readings unless he was reading, or the reader was a poet whose favor he wanted.


sound decision

One who would never sacrifice the right word for the useful sound.


booster seat

As he recited his various publications, he seemed to sit a little higher in his chair. It was then I imagined him sitting on a stack of books.


moment of conviction

The first question in poetry at that time was simply the question of honesty, sincerity. The point for me, and I think for Louis [Zukofsky], too, was the attempt to construct a meaning, to construct a method of thought from the imagist technique of poetry, from the imagist intensity of vision. If no one were going to challenge me, I would say “a test of truth.” If I had to back it up I’d say anyway, “a test of sincerity.” That there is a moment, in actual time, when you believe something to be true, and you construct a meaning from those moments of conviction.

—George Oppen, quoted in Robert Hass’s What Light Can Do (Ecco, 2012)


sentence structure

Despite its effort to undermine, to subvert, even to try to damage the sentence, poetry will find that the sentence is a very resilient and adaptable thing.


practical concerns

Poet, before you take flight, sew your wings on tight.


show me your papers

Be ready to inspect the critic’s credentials at the border (before the review).


not bounded

No matter its first and last line a poem has no beginning or end.


black box

The critic tries to find the poem’s flight recorder sunk somewhere among its wreckage. Sometimes understanding is a futile pursuit.


wild draft

Not only a rough draft, but one that was rugged and wild.


not in the throat

The duende, then, is a power, not a work. It is a struggle, not a thought. I have heard an old maestro of the guitar say, 'The duende is not in the throat; the duende climbs up inside you, from the soles of the feet.' Meaning this: it is not a question of ability, but of true, living style, of blood, of the most ancient culture, of spontaneous creation.

—Federico García Lorca, In Search of Duende (New Directions, 1998), translation by Christopher Maurer.


yet unbroken

The integral lines that broke just the same.


weights and measures

Each word weighed and measured upon the scale of the tongue.


he walks the line

The old verse poet kept iambling along.


impossible and plain

Poems are the impossibility of plainness rendered in plainest form.

—Susan Howe, "Scare Quotes II," The Midnight (New Directions, 2003)


poem atop poem

The poem's title was a poem itself.


center justified

It must be because it appears more like a hymn or a prayer when arrayed that way, that naïve poets center their lines on the page.


taking refuge in work

After reading a spate of flighty and off-the-top-of-the-head kind of poetry, all I want to do is to read some work. I want to see and feel the workmanship that went into a poem’s making.


in the muck

Whether send-up, satire, or snark, one has to care too much about contemporary culture to be a postmodernist.


small bold thing

Sometimes when I read a slight but delightful poem, I think that I wouldn’t have had the confidence to make a poem out of so little.


violates the superficial

Daniel Halpern, in his introduction to Holy Fire: Nine Visionary Poets and the Quest for Enlightenment, offers three criteria for visionary poems: “First, they must honor their language (oral or written), whether it be English, French, German, Kashmiri, Hindi, Sanskrit, or Persian, acknowledging Santayana’s observation that ‘the height of poetry is to speak the language of the gods.’ Second, the poems must fulfill, with unerring precision, the requirements of their form, whatever that form turns out to be. And third, the poetry must operate in a visionary realm—that is, present a view of the world that violates the superficial, reaches through the surface to touch the primal material. Wordsworth would call this act the seeing into the life of things; Ruskin wrote, “The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something, and tell what it saw in a plain way…To see clearly is poetry, prophecy, and religion,—all in one.”

—Lisa Russ Spaar, The Hide-And-Seek Muse: Annotations of Contemporary Poetry (Drunken Boat Media, 2013)


cliché critique

When criticizing common expressions or themes, too many critics/reviewers are quick to cue that commonplace dictum of Pound’s: “Make it new.” Shouldn’t the critic/reviewer abide by the same standard and make his/her case without resorting to a cliché quote?


scanning the obits

I was glad to read in your last poem that no one had died.


single voice

Monomedium Productions presents “The poetry reading.”


window pane

Each page a window into the writer's mind.


invisible form

With invisible form, the poet and the form and the material are like somebody riding a horse over broken terrain. The three are constantly changing. The horse and rider accede to the varying hillside, the rider adjusts when the horse finds solutions, the horse adapts to each move the rider makes. And all of it subject to where the rider plans to be that night.

This overall deciding is central to invisible form, since its nature is to implement. It makes the poem do something beyond tactics. Many people feel there should be more democracy in writing poems, that the poem should be allowed to find its own form. But it is not a way to get out of the valley before dark. Given a chance, the horse will spend a lot of time eating…Left to themselves, [poems] lapse into their default state—which is minor poetry.

—Jack Gilbert, “The Craft of the Invisible,” (Ironwood)


wrong place wrong time

In recent hostage-taking incident, the bank robber emerged from the bank holding one of the hostages as a human shield. When the SWAT team commander heard that the human shield was a poet, he ordered the police sharpshooter to “Take the shot.”

“All poets all have a death wish anyway,” he was quoted as saying to the press afterward.


passing strange

The poem was an image parade.


essential eye

As I became a better reader I found I could stare right through the cover and fix my eyes on the few essential passages therein. Or perhaps that was my fantasy.


advice to artists

Go big or be exquisite.


few and far between

The poems of happiness happen less.


ends beyond effects

The artist conceals the ordeal of labor in order to manifest the work. Created in time, and as well received in time, works of art have absolute beginnings in intention and absolute ends beyond their effects.

—Susan Stewart, “Ovid’s Contests of Making,” The Poet’s Freedom (U. of Chicago Press, 2011)


working script

A poet asks the words to be actors in his play.


as stock-in-trade

A poet will always have a few choice words for you.


limited time offer

Wait, there's more! If you order right now, we'll send you the links to The Collected Early Poetry, The Collected Later Poetry, The Selected Poetry, The Complete Poetry and The Uncollected Poetry, all for $1.99, plus $19.99 server download charge.


odd nun

Prone to linguistically ecstatic and visionary flights, she was poetry’s odd nun. [Thinking of Marianne Moore.]


dead animals

There were so many dead animals in the poet’s book I began to think he’d missed his calling as a taxidermist.


plain text

Over the years the covers of poetry books have gone from plain, stark words printed within a border, to elaborate and often intriguing multi-color works of art. Yet the text inside remains its simple self.


potential halo

Husserl’s descriptions of what constitutes a world, with its inner horizons of what is perceived and known and its outer regions of the unperceived and unknown, resonate with poetic intimations of the power that resides within everydayness and informs the way ordinary things admit a horizon, suggesting another side of reality, unseen within our habitual quotidian regard. The poetry of both Rilke and Robert Frost intimates another side of things beyond the world’s inner horizons, suggesting not so much a radical mysticism, but a view that the mysterious and unknown remain relevant to our everyday life, as a potential halo surrounding the most ordinary things and experiences. When the mysteriousness is acknowledged the ordinary look of things is radically transformed; for these poets this means that they are seen more truly in a reality of greater and more intensely magnified dimensions than our ordinary habits of perception allow.

—Jennifer Anna Gosetti-Ferencei, The Ecstatic Quotidian (Penn. State Univ. Press, 2007)


thrown together text

A long poem without a discernible organizing principle, without narrative or without a recurring theme, and comprised of discrete and easily separable sections that could be reordered without diminishment to the whole, is not a long poem.


shortcut life

In literature, dying young seems to be a shortcut to fame. But I wouldn’t recommend it as a career path.


mind enamored

Lounging on a divan of gray matter, the poet’s mind was his one inamorata. [Thinking of Wallace Stevens]


drone on

It's been reported that the Poetry Foundation has sponsored a drone that is flying over Chicago, threading skyscrapers, slowly passing over neighborhoods, all the while broadcasting poetry to unsuspecting passers-by in the streets below.


the next big thing: a meme about new books

Anny Ballardini over at NarcissusWorks tagged me with this set of questions. Although I think it was a mistake, as my answers will explain...

What is the working title of the book?

     It should be "le livre imaginaire," because everything about my book is somewhat imaginary.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

     I'm full of ideas. And I believe, contrary to Mallarmé, that poems and ideas can cohabitate happily. Often the individual poems I write deal directly with particular ideas. But no one of these ideas would be suitable in & of itself for building a book around it.

What genre does your book fall under?

     Unpublished, if that is a genre. If not, it should be. Certainly since Dickinson, with her carefully ribboned fascicles, unpublished in book form should be a genre.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

     Older people tell me I look like Tyrone Power. Middle age people say I look like Kevin Kline. Younger people don't have an opinion on the matter. So currently I'll go with Bradley Cooper.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

     Work-in-progress; like most things in life. In poetry it doesn't seem to be a problem to publish unfinished things.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

     30 years, thus far.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

     Individual poems inspire me. Books do not. I think poets spend for too much time obssessing over their books, thematic coherence, the order of the poems, etc.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

     The fact that my book may never be a book should be intriquing. It intrigues me.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

     None of the above.

I tag Donna Fleischer at the word pond. Here is her Q & A. Thanks, Donna. Meme on.


landscape cloak

The title of Zanzotto’s first collection, Dietro il paesaggio, indicates what has become an enduring desire to indeed go behind the landscape, into it, and out upon it, to literally wrap it around the self—as is expressed in the closing lines of the poem “Ormai” (By Now), in which the landscape is conceived of as a type of protecting cloak: “Here all that’s left is to wrap the landscape around the self / and turn your back.” Zanzotto’s recognition of the total encirclement of the self by one’s surroundings reveals a deep rootedness, at once warmly familiar and yet also uneasily enclosing.

—Patrick Barron, introduction to The Selected Poetry and Prose of Andrea Zanzotto (U. of Chicago Press, 2007), edited and translated by Patrick Barron.


like us only better

Somehow we expect poets to be better people. Sometimes we are disappointed.


my language, my liege

Poet, swear your fealty to language.


higher calling

The poet was not teaching poetry writing, per se, he was teaching poetry.


lesser parts of speech

Such was the poet’s facility with language one believed she could compose a poem using only articles and prepositions.



                                   ...but, of

course, there are beaches and galaxies and
long, long poems: I’ve begun to think that
nothing in the world is so important as a long,
long poem, a place anyone’s obsession can be

found lost in, an ongoingingness too reliable to
conclude, a problem that doesn’t finish
its way out of existence, a clinging that holds
clinging on as its enterprise...

—A.R. Ammons, from “Scarcities,” an unpublished poem, typescript dated Sept. 15, 1986, Chicago Review (A. R. Ammons issue; 57: 1 / 2 Summer/Autumn 2012)


unstable structure

The poem will always be that rickety rotting pier jutting out over an everdeepening sea of rushing white foam.


on crutches

The line was bracing itself with the one above and the one below.


pages unable to contain

The megapoem could hardly fit in a codex book. [Thinking of Olson’s “Maximus”]



Almost always the last line is trying to do too much. But it can’t make up the lost ground of the lines that preceded it.


regurgitative poetics

Too many teachers of creative writing are content with passing on received materials instead of finding their own pedagogical texts and promoting those.


wall words

Once a poem becomes a broadside it can’t hide within the pages of a book.


mental tuning

Whenever I read short Japanese poems (haiku/tanka) I think of how out of tune my mind is to all kinds of subtleties and nuance from reading so much Western poetry. A real sense of intimacy comes across in many of these of poems, in the way that two people who have known each other for a long time don't need to elaborate to make themselves heard. And because so little is being sketched in by way of background or temporal markers (not counting the prevalence of seasonal words), a little poem from the 8th Century can seem not at all antique.


first the prose then the poetry

Pound is the kind of poet whose poetry is perhaps better when first approached through criticism (his own and that of others on his work) rather than starting with reading the poetry itself.

[n.b: Of course I was reading a book about Pound’s poetry when I jotted down this thought; and then a few minutes later coming back to a chapter I’d skipped over, I ran across this Eliot quote: “…And of no other poet can it be more important to say, that his criticism and his poetry, his precept and his practice, compose a single œuvre. It is necessary to read Pound’s poetry to understand his criticism, and to read his criticism to understand his poetry.” –T.S. Eliot, introduction to Literary Essays of Ezra Pound (Faber, 1954)]


definitely averse

A line that won’t be turned easily.



The poem was a city of waterways and bridges.


make it like new

One might say it was imitatively innovative writing.


target language

As the translator of poetry painstakingly works through each poem, little does s/he know that a target is slowly being painted on her/his back.


symbol overwhelmed

The symbol succumbed to the image after the advent of mass media. The bear in the dog pit, the symbol was overwhelmed by the many images springing forth from photo journalism, motion pictures, television,...


recognized wrong

Thus a wrong—an injustice—done a poet who is really a poet, excites him to a degree which to ordinary apprehension appears disproportionate with the wrong. Poets see injustice, never where it does not exist, but very often where the unpoetical see no injustice whatever.

—Charles Baudelaire, “Further Notes on Edgar Poe,” The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays (Phaidon Press, 1964), translated and edited by Jonathan Mayne.


respect impetus

Unless you respect its essential impetus in the rewriting process, a poem may well be revised right out of existence.


see attached/enclosed

Quite a number of poets are more assiduous about submitting their work for publication than expending the efforts necessary to write better poetry.


voice reservoir

A poet with a deep reservoir of voices.


alpabetic roots

A poem’s roots are the alphabet.


bible thumper

A Bible-thumping formalist, he pounded on his Big Book of Forms. [Thinking of Lewis Turco]


unlimited refills

It’s true I was not writing…but I wasn’t blocked—I was simply refilling.


poem or compass

Poetry’s the compass of respect

—David Giannini, from "42 APHORISTICS," Talisman (Issue #41, 2012)


so let it

The poem will not end, so let it trail off. The poem will not resolve, so let it be a blur.


performance-enhanced poetics


With Lance Armstrong’s long-anticipated admission that he secretly ‘doped’ for years while competing at a high level in various international cycling events, it has come to light that other lesser known pursuits have also been influenced by this illicit practice. Recently there have been news reports stating that “even poets have begun taking various performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).” Among this new class of pharmaceuticals (often referred to as PoPEDs in the underground marketplace) it has been shown by urine tests, administered at random both in dingy restrooms of coffeehouses and in spotless university lavatories, that poets are increasingly experimenting with and using without prescription, the following trade-name drugs—

Iambian: This drug is said to cause the blood to pulse audibly in perfect iambic beats within the brain, which is said to lead directly to highly regular metrical compositions. As a possible side effect, some users have reported that their love-making has fallen into a fairly boring style.

Rimon: A derivative form of Echoal, this drug increases the ability to hear words in rhyming pairs. A common side effect is an inability to speak at length without going into a sing-song mode, otherwise it has been shown safe and effective, elective, erective detective…

Contestin: Although clinical trials have not shown the same results, users of this drug claim that their minds are able to control, from great distances, the selections made by contest screeners and judges. Side effects are mild, though some heavy users have reported a persistent ringing in their ears that sounds like Charlie Sheen repeating, “Winning. I’m, winning!”

Realitonine: Perhaps the most controversial of this class of drugs, this particular PED has been known to cause the user “to really believe” certain dire and life-altering events really happened to him/her. Confessional poetry of a very high (shriek level) order often results after using this drug, which, by convention, is mainlined with a hypodermic needle. So alarming is this practice, the Poetry Foundation has given hundreds of thousands in support of local needle exchange programs. Side effects: Estrangement from relatives and friends, visible tracks along the inner arm, as well as thoughts of suicide.



All poets dismiss Poetry magazine except for those rare issues in which their poems appear.


approximate realized

The ideal project does not exist, each time there is the opportunity to realize an approximation.

Paulo Mendes da Rocha

The ideal poem does not exist, each time there is the opportunity to realize an approximation.

[Mendes da Rocha quoted in The Architect Says (Princeton Architectural Press, 2012), compiled and edited by Laura S. Dushkes]


quid pro quo

If you pay for a book of poems you’re more likely to read it over one that has been given to you.


po papa

The Pope of poetry.


overly contented

Too content with her trove of compelling content.


pressure written

Perhaps nothing is worse for a poet than having too much time to write.


what matters

The words are ghosts; their meanings are matter.


what draft matters

There have been writers who did not believe in rewriting. They argue that the first step has been placed in the universe—it is there forever, unchangeable. But the second draft of the poem, and the third—are they not also placed in the universe? So the question of which draft is the best—that is, which moves people most strongly, seems most true—is still to be decided. The best draft may not be the first but the tenth, or the fortieth. The wish simply to speak and have it accepted as poetry is one with the child’s wish to utter a cry and be obeyed.

—Louis Simpson, “‘The Precinct Station’—Structure and Idea,” Ships Going into the Blue (The U. of Michigan Press, 1994)