poets on earth

When they were known only as poets to you, they were your gods, but once you knew them as people they were after all people who wrote poems.


resilient design

Even if in typesetting two or three lines got dropped the integrity of the poem would not be damaged.


numbers game

Sonneteers are numerologists convinced of the magical power of fourteen.


could end anywhere

Once the poem has established itself, any late line can be a last line.


begin in wonder

In the Metaphysics, Aristotle tells us that through wonder (thaumazein) “people both now begin and in the first began to philosophize.” Earlier, in Plato’s Theaetatus we learn that “wonder is the feeling of a philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder.” Both poetry and philosophy intersect in their desire for the essence or source of things.

Mark Irwin, “Poetry and Originality: Have You Been There Before?” The Writer’s Chronicle, Vol. 48, Number 2, Oct./Nov. 2015


literal leeway

Poets will always allow themselves to be less literal than they would otherwise condone as readers of others’ writings.


light verse poet

Smitten by meter; overly fond of form.


you are here

Using place names: like dropping a section of the earth into the poem.


time poet

A poet companionable to our times.


end in sight

Always a bad sign in reading a book when you find yourself flipping ahead to see how many pages to the end.


always hungry

These, then, are Robinson’s kinds of originality, of poetic value—all of them subtle and half hidden, muffled and disturbing, answering little but asking those questions that are unpardonable, unforgettable, and necessary.

It is curious and wonderful that this scholarly, intelligent, childlike, tormented New England stoic, “always hungry for the nameless,” always putting in the reader’s mouth “some word that hurts your tongue,” useless for anything but his art, protected by hardier friends all his life, but enormously courageous and utterly dedicated (he once told Chard Powers Smith at the very end of his life, “I could never have done anything but write poetry”), should have brought off what in its quiet, searching, laborious way is one of the most remarkable accomplishments of modern poetry.

—James Dickey, “Edward Arlington Robinson,” Babel to Byzantium: Poets and Poetry Now (Ecco Press, 1981)


plain wrapper

A publisher who was trying to bring back the boring book cover.

[Thinking of Wave Books]


write through

I must write even when I cannot write.


multiple moons

Certainly a planet with two or three moons would have better poets living on it than our own.


ghost words

The ghost of what was stripped away in revision still haunts your reading of the poem.


leaping junk to junk

How do these seemingly disparate elements weld together? What makes this part or that fit where they do? How does a steel beam fit into its place in David Smith’s sculpture? How do images, and memories they engender, fit into our histories? In his “Conversation about Dante,” Osip Mandelstam notes, “One has to run across the whole width of the river, jammed with mobile Chinese junks sailing in various directions. This is how the meaning of poetic speech is created. Its route cannot be reconstructed by interrogating the boatmen: they will not tell how and why we were leaping from junk to junk.” These mysterious instabilities of making then coalesce into a poem, into this poem.

—James McCorkle, ”The Making of a Poem,” Poems and Their Making: A Conversation (Etruscan Press, 2015), moderated by Philip Brady.


second to last

He sent his manuscript with twenty bucks only to find out he was runner-up for The Last Unpublished Poet on Earth Prize.


then and now

The poem transcends its occasion and becomes a new event.


life force

The book of poems was so good you believed at any moment it would animate, turn into a kind of bird, and fly from your hands.


reality check

The conceptual poet strays at his own risk into the real world.

[Thinking of Kenneth Goldsmith]