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.