nature abhors a vacuum

Fortunately, the advent of the world wide web was able to absorb the increased output spurred by the creative writing MFA explosion.



Language as medium of communication is a given, but poetry reveals language as a force of nature.


O and over again

A critic whose oxygen was the Os spoken by poets.


is worth all

The poem doesn’t try to sell itself. Its improbable existence in this world gives it worth.


woman nomination night

Coming of age as a poet in the late 1950s and well into the '60s, I was not unconscious of the disdain with which aspiring women poets—and people of color—were treated. Gradually I came to realize how arduous the road to acceptance as a woman artist would be. Attitudes changed at a glacial pace. I have cited elsewhere, more than once, an event that took place in 1967. At a dinner hosted by the Poetry Society of America, Robert Lowell rose to praise Marianne Moore as the nation's best woman poet. Blessedly, Langston Hughes leapt up to assert that she was the best Negro woman poet in the country. What astonishes me is how few women today, hearing this story, appreciate the irony in it. Was she black? they ask.

—Maxine Kumin, “Metamorphosis: From Light Verse to the Poetry of Witness” (The Georgia Review, Winter 2012)


watery diarrhea

After hearing that Christian Bök had been instilling ‘poetry’ within the DNA of E. coli bacteria, I decided I’d better check the symptom list...

Symptoms can include:

   •abdominal cramping
   •sudden, severe watery diarrhea that may change to bloody stools
   •loss of appetite/nausea
   •vomiting (uncommon)

Oh...I too dislike it.


off hand

His best ‘writings’ were those things he’d said in conversation and that others had remembered and recorded.


listen up, people

Another online litmag with one of those masthead manifestos written by an editor too young to understand how much his exhortations sound like echoes.


line cutter

The first line came late.


spin off poem

A small poem spun off from a still forming, larger one.


first sight

Seeing a poem in publication pales before that moment of reading it as a largely completed draft.


good form

Fortunately we don’t need to know how bad the age is. There is something we can always be doing without reference to how good or how bad the age is. There is at least so much good in the world that it admits of form and the making of form. And not only admits of it, but calls for it. We people are thrust forward out of suggestions of form in the rolling clouds of nature. In us nature reaches its height of form and through us exceeds itself. When in doubt there is always form for us to go on with. Anyone who has achieved the least form to be sure of it, is lost to the larger excruciations. I think it must stroke faith the right way. The artist, the poet, might be expected to be the most aware of such assurance. But it is really everybody’s sanity to feel it and live by it. Fortunately, too, no forms are more engrossing, gratifying, comforting, staying than those lesser ones we throw off, like vortex rings of smoke, all our individual enterprise and needing nobody’s co-operation; a basket, a letter, a garden, a room, an idea, a picture, a poem. For those we haven’t to get a team together before we can play.

—Robert Frost, “The Letter to The Amherst Student*,” Selected Prose of Robert Frost (Collier Books, 1968), edited by Hyde Cox and Edward Connery Lathem. *Written in 1935.


flipping through pages

A scholar whose studies could only be described as desultory.


critic as scout

Critics run ahead of us to call out warnings and to mark stopping places.


noir poetics

First case the joint with a good close reading.


red line

The genius and the hack don’t need an editor. For the rest of us that office often does good work.


work in stone

The mason stirs:
Pens are too light.
Take a chisel to write.

—Basil Bunting, “Briggflatts,” The Poems of Basil Bunting (Faber & Faber, 2016), edited by Don Share.


lined out

We must consider the fact that any poet could strike out a line of genius.


papering over

Certain poets try to paper over their deficiencies by publishing too much.


oh goody

The covers of the leading magazines for writers have captions like: “More than 100 Opportunities for Grants, Awards & Publication” and “101 Contests with Upcoming Deadlines.”


as leaves

That if Poetry comes not as naturally as the leaves to a tree it had better not come at all.

—John Keats, letter to John Taylor (February 27, 1818)

That if publication comes not as naturally as the leaves to a tree it had better not come at all.


empty passages

Opening a wormeaten book, I couldn’t help but marvel at the ribbons of silence they had carved into the text.


lay bare

The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions hidden by the answers.

—James Baldwin, "The Creative Process" in The National Cultural Center's Creative America (1962), reprinted in The Price of the Ticket (1985)