catching glories

10. Poetry catches the sheen and sound of glory in the here-and-now—in, between and among words, and between words and phenomena. That is to say, in the words themselves and also at all their borders and interfaces—with each other (when two); with one another (when more than two); and with the non-linguistic universe that is both ‘out there’ and ‘in here’, which is itself by definition not only the source of glory but also ineffable and speechless.

11. “Poetry catches…” This catching includes all senses and contexts of the English verb: (i) unwittingly, as one catches something contagious (e.g. laughing, yawning, a more or, unfortunately, a virus); (ii) whether by chance or conscious effort, as one catches something that is not necessarily obvious (e.g. a hint, a clue, an undertone, an implication, a suggestion, a purport, an intention, a meaning); (iii) deliberately, as one catches something thrown or dropped, before it lands elsewhere (e.g. a ball, a leaf); (iv) equally deliberately, as one catches a creature that one has been searching for or hunting (a lion, a fish, a butterfly); (v) or as one can be caught unawares (in a situation, by a memory), etc.

12. So catching glory or catching glories is not a bad definition of what poetry does. And is.

—Richard Berengarten, “On Poetry and Catching Glories,” Imagems 1 (Shearsman Books, 2013)



Perhaps the model of a good MFA program would be a kind of revolving hub, centered around a workshop set spinning with its aesthetic energy, generating critical friction, throwing off sparks—those MFA graduates who start their own creative fires across the cultural landscape.


first art

The joy to think that our art originates in the era of the earliest human speech.


uneasy relations

Translation is a negotiation between fidelity and the lust to know the other.


to know by echo

Critics: Literary latecomers with all the answers.


profligate pages

To publish prolifically is an act of disrespect toward the art of poetry.


infallible test

In poetry, in which every line, every phrase, may pass the ordeal of deliberation and deliberate choice, it is possible, and barely possible, to attain that ultimatum which I have ventured to propose as the infallible test of a blameless style; namely: its untranslatableness in words of the same language without injury to the meaning.

—Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Biographia Literaria (1817), ch. 22


fidget word

The one word that wouldn’t sit still in the poem.


first forty-eight

In the first 24, in the first 48. Like the hours after a crime, these early words are so important to solving the poem.


therefore iamb

When people asked if he was a formalist poet, he’d answer: “I amb.”


more light

So often in a writer’s photo it’s a wan person holed up in a little room, hunched over a typewriter or keyboard, with a shelf of books where a window should be.


big head

One of those titles that was smarter by half than the poem itself.


revision resistant

The problem was that the poem couldn’t be improved upon.


candy words

Nouns and verbs are sustenance. But ah, the confection of certain adjectives.


in silence and solitude

Poetry and letters
Persist in silence and solitude.

—Tu Fu, "Night in the House by the River," translated by Kenneth Rexroth, One Hundred Poems from the Chinese (New Directions, 1956)


team player

He was happy to be a minor member of a well-known group.


stray strong

The line that strays is always the strongest one.


go small

The image was symbolic when it needed to be specific.


flavor and texture

To speak the poem would give mouthfuls of pleasure as though eating a fine meal.