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.