matter of interest

Poetry, as other object matter, is after all for the interested people.

—Louis Zukofsky, preface to A Test of Poetry (1948)

[Poetry after all, one might add, is for interesting people.]


dorothy and emily

Dialogue from the film, The Wizard of Oz (1939)...

   Oz: I am Oz—the Great and Powerful. Who are you? Who are you?!

   Dorothy: If you please, I am Dorothy—the small and meek.


   Poetry: I am Poetry—the Great and Powerful. Who are you? Who are you?!

   Dickinson: If you please, I am Emily—the small and meek.

[You know how this story ends.]


knows the difference

I’m fine so long as the poet knows he’s writing prose in poetry lines.


not poetry itself

We have to remember that what we observe is not nature herself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.

—Werner Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science (1958), lectures delivered at University of St. Andrews, Scotland, Winter 1955-56.

We have to remember that what we observe is not poetry itself, but poetry exposed to our method of questioning.


mark making

Stone, paper, pixels, air, mind…poems will try to fix upon anything


small conundrum

A poem so simple it must be misunderstood.



The poetic line: a dragline in the universe.


hot prospect

Some critics are like baseball scouts looking for the kid with the sinking fastball. Only instead of sitting along the left field line in an almost empty minor league stadium, they scour the pages of nearly unread literary magazines.


audible line

Meant to be uttered, a line that resisted ink.


own the moment

Each week to find that moment that opens, widens out into a poem.


against the sunset

In the “Evening Walk,” composed partly at school, partly in college vacations, he notices how the boughs and leaves of the oak darken and come out when seen against the sunset. “I recollect distinctly,” [Wordsworth] says nearly fifty years afterwards, “the very spot where this first struck me. It was on the way between Hawkshead and Ambleside, and gave me extreme pleasure. The moment was important in my poetical history; for I date from it my consciousness of the infinite variety of natural appearances, which had been unnoticed by the poets of any age or country, so far as I was acquainted with them; and I made a resolution to supply in some degree the deficiency. I could not have been at the time above fourteen years of age.”
It would be hardly too much to say that there is not a single image in his whole works which he had not observed with his own eyes. And perhaps no poet since Homer has introduced into poetry, directly from nature, more facts and images which had not before been noted in books.

—J. C. Shairp, Studies in Poetry and Philosophy (Hurd and Houghton, 1872).


unfit to print

This poem is shredder ready.


not enough there there

The content is suspect when you realize you couldn’t write the poem any better than you did.


ink over utterance

A spoken word artist who wasn’t up to his tattoos.


pancaked structure

There were some good phrases in the poem, but they seemed like distressed cries coming from a collapsed building


freedom in form

There is such a complete freedom now-a-days in respect to technique that I am rather inclined to disregard form so long as I am free and can express myself freely. I don't know of anything, respecting form, that makes much difference. The essential thing in form is to be free in whatever form is used. A free form does not assure freedom. As a form, it is just one more form. So that it comes to this, I suppose, that I believe in freedom regardless of form.

—Wallace Stevens, "A Note on Poetry," Opus Posthumous (Knopf, 1957).


poem above me

The poem should stand above the poet’s force of personality.


sentence sense

With a sixth sense for sentence structure, a poet who could dispense with punctuation.


mistake proof

Blunders, once recognized, become the poem’s building blocks.


library of unfinished books

Many books started, some finished—some deserving of being set aside, others casualties of restlessness or lack of attention.