good lines

Admiring the fit and finish of the poem.



The lines like toppled statuary, fallen, broken off heads and limbs, spilled, beautiful fragments.


spirit level

The one word that is the spirit level of the line.


the living and the dead

Had he reached a tipping point where he could recall more dead poets than living ones?



from one to another

You only have so many notes, and what makes a style is how you get from one note to another.
—Dizzy Gillespie*

You only have so many words, and what makes a style is how you get from one word to another.

*Quoted in J. D. McClatchy’s Sweet Theft: A poet’s commonplace book (Counterpoint Press, 2016)


wind aware

Use the page like a sail reaching.


kinds of sight

The observer discovers, the seer creates. Mistrust the latter.


hole cloth

A poem whole was impossible. Most passages came apart during reading. Even in the middle of a line he could lose his way and fall into fragment.


symbol rule

Any image that recurs within one’s oeuvre will eventually function as symbol.


as an artist

As an artist, you should not wish to create what you don’t feel you have to create.

People who read only the Classics are sure to remain up-to-date.

There is a poet in every competent person; this comes out when they write, read, speak or listen.

Art originated in a longing for the superfluous.

The spirit of a language is revealed most clearly through its untranslatable words.

Philosophers arrive at conclusions, poets must allow theirs to develop.

The old saw “It’s always hard to begin” only applies to skills. In art nothing is harder than to end, which means at the same time to perfect.

Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, Aphorisms (Ariadne Press, 1994), translated by David Scrase and Wolfgang Mieder.


weight of white

The thin line of letters trekking across the page felt an avalanche of white building over them.


job description

That former art once referred to as editing is now known by the term ‘content management’.


method and manner

The writer’s formula for composition was praised as style by the reader.


create trap

The notion that you must make things which you have no real impulse to realize.


sounds across time

But if one followed Marsh’s image [Reginald Marsh's Wooden Horses], nobility seemed to exist in art today “only in degenerate forms or in a much diminished state,” because that was now the nature of the real. For the poet too “a variation between the sound of words in one age and the sound of words in another” was itself “an instance of the pressure of reality.” Locke and Hobbes had denounced the seventeenth century for its connotative use of language, that had resulted in an era of urbane, witty poetic diction, with Pope and Swift as its chief proponents.

—Paul Mariani, The Whole Harmonium (Simon & Schuster, 2016)


measure for measure

Most poems fail based on a simple mixed measurement ratio: the material (subject, idea, story, substance) weighs less than its length in lines.


allowed to float up

Blurble: 'verb' – sound made when you lift a book and turn to the back cover.


smiling while reading

The rare joy of reading a joyful poem.