poem made of ideas

I enjoyed reading the poetry prompt and thinking of a poem that might come from it...one I'd never write.


knowing more than one can say

As a critical writer, she feigned ignorance because sometimes that’s easier to admit than to accept one’s inability to articulate.


best unkept secret

Richard Howard, in an open address, criticized the establishment of National Poetry Month as a betrayal of “the best kept secret of all”—poetry. Every April, since the establishment of National Poetry Month, I receive a call from my local library or high school, asking if I will participate in a reading. How about November? I always ask, and the answer is always the same: People aren’t interested then; April is the month poetry goes public.

April is the cruelest month.
The secret of poetry is cruelty.

—Mary Ruefle, “On Secrets,” Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures (Wave Books, 2012)


dark wood

Why is it that each day it seems I awaken within a dark wood and yet I’ve never once embarked on composing a ‘Divine Comedy’?


reader too familiar

As he pretended to read, you noticed all the poems were recited from memory. Perhaps if he’d punctuated his reading with some remembered lines from other poets, you wouldn’t so distrust him as someone too familiar with his own writing.


winning ways

Contests, prizes and awards...the art of writing reduced to winning.


unplanned trip

The scheme of the poem, the dream of the poem.


few words we have to say

All I want is to speak simply; for this grace I pray.
For we have loaded even the song with so many kinds of music
That gradually it sinks.
And our art we so decorated that beneath the gilt
Its face is eaten away.
And it is now time for us to say the few words we have to say
Because tomorrow our soul sets sail.

George Seferis, from “An Old Man on the River Bank,” George Seferis: Poems (Little, Brown and Company, 1964), translated by Rex Warner.


sense of an ending

Should the poem end with ‘thus…’, or with ‘and yet…’?


pound for pound the best poetics

The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.

—Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality (1929)

The safest general characterization of the Modernist poetic tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Pound.


one-sided conversation

I got buttonholed by another talk poet today…couldn’t get a word (or even a thought) in edgewise.


more than carry over

A metaphor must be exploratory, not explanatory.


easy listening

When I slipped into the prose writer’s car, why did I know he’d be tuned to Easy 101.1.


unsure of its surroundings

Often a poetic line is composed in the form of a statement only to be put down on the page tentatively, as though a question.


accurate and modest

Elizabeth Bishop is spectacular in being unspectacular. Why has no one ever thought of this, one asks oneself; why not be accurate and modest.

—Marianne Moore, in a review of Bishop's North & South (Houghton Mifflin, 1946), The Nation (Sept. 29, 1946).


mouth making

Bring a basketful of words, and some spittle for paste.


rules-based writing

A poet teaching composition is dangerous to both student and teacher.


fewer markers

To avoid punctuation he would write the long way around.


half and half

Reading his criticism, I thought to myself: Half deft, half daft.


voices and visions

Sometimes vision involves hearing things.


cover calvacade

Some many books and so few poems.



The practiced reticence of her last lines.