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     Unpublished, if that is a genre.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 Certainly since Dickinson, with her carefully ribboned fascicles, unpublished in book form should be a genre.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.