contrarian poetics

A poet in a running argument with the world. [Thinking of Alan Dugan.]


plagiarist's curse

We must pity the plagiarists. For they’re forced to steal second-rate texts in order to escape immediate detection. And thankfully the truly great texts, the treasures of the age, some laying open for all to see, are unknown by anyone.


uncorrected sight

Never let craft eclipse vision.


shaken awake

The purpose of art is to shake us from the stupor of the ordinary. Sometimes it does that by offering an extraordinary view of the ordinary.


accident prone

One should not be afraid of accidents occurring in one’s art as accidents happen only to those who are engaged in accidents. (103)


Composition is a design personified, a design not mechanically perfect but emotionally perfect. A design is of an evocative nature. Design that is magic. In a perfect composition shapes excluded and shapes included are equally important. (104)

John D. Graham, System and Dialectics of Art (Johns Hopkins U. Press, 1971), annotated from unpublished writings and critical introduction by Marcia Epstein Allentuck.


higher school

Poets ranked according to the prestige of the institutions where they taught.


image energy

An image is made manifest in language but its force comes from experience.


memory of perfection

I would like my work to be recognized in the classic tradition (Coptic, Egyptian, Greek, Chinese), as representing the Ideal in the mind. Classical art cannot possibly be eclectic. One must see the Ideal in one’s own mind. It is like a memory of perfection.


I used to paint mountains here in New Mexico and I thought
my mountains looked like ant hills
I saw the plains driving out of New Mexico and I thought
the plain had it
just the plane
If you draw a diagonal, that’s loose at both ends
I don’t like circles—too expanding
When I draw horizontals
you see this big plane and you have a certain feeling like
you’re expanding over the plane
Anything can be painted without representation

—Agnes Martin, “The Untroubled Mind,” Writings/Schriften (Kuntzmuseum Winterthur/ Edition Cantz, 1992), edited by Herausgegeben von Dieter Schwarz

[Today Google's landing page featured a painting by Agnes Martin, to honor the 102nd anniversary of her birth.]


serious fun

A poetics of insouciance.

[Thinking of James Tate.]


title trouble

Two titles that should never appear above a poem: “Untitled” and “Poem.”


like windblown leaves

Will all your poems be uncollected?


fire in the hole

Perhaps people have trouble understanding poetry because so often a good poem is trying to explode its genre.


patience to see

Unimaginable how much patience is needed to see the simplest things. How much patience I need to write a single verse.

—George Seferis, A Poet’s Journal: Days of 1945-1951 (The Belknap Press, Harvard U. Press, 1974), translated by Athan Anagnostopoulos.


from the desk of the editor #4

You've heard that Eskimos have a dozen words for snow;
we editors have at least a couple dozen for ‘No’.


important marker

A title should be more than a file tab.


first script

No neatly printed page can equal the beauty of handwritten lines in a notebook.


lit up

Each word illuminated from within by allusion.


scraped panels

In a 1995 New Yorker magazine profile of Mr. York, Calvin Tomkins said he was perhaps “the most highly admired unknown artist in America.” He described a shy man who avoided anyone connected to the art world, who worked slowly and who was perpetually dissatisfied with his work, prone to scraping down his wood panels and starting over.

Ms. Langdale said Mr. York usually wrapped his paintings in brown paper and mailed them to the gallery. She said that when one arrived, unannounced and “practically still wet,” she often felt that Mr. York “had to get it out of the house in order not to destroy it.”

—Roberta Smith, "Albert York, Reclusive Landscape Painter, Dies at 80"
The New York Times obituary, published: October 31, 2009



Version by version the vision made manifest.


art's remuneration

One of those artists who thought the world owed him a living without proof of his worth.