sure surrender

It is not possible to understand without surrender. As long as the slightest inclination to criticism remains in the consciousness it is hopeless to do justice to what is strange.

Beauty is not intrinsic in any form—it comes to make that form.

To critics: Write of the quick, as you do of the dead, with the same detachment.

Every aesthetic expression is dynamic and therefore involves distortion.

Too much craft in art ruins the art in the craft.

One can live for years with nothing on outside but a few hours with nothing in inside; that applies to art also.

Art never improves, only changes.

Margaret Preston, Aphorisms (Art in Australia, LTD, 1929)


say it

A poetics not of seeing, but of a way of saying.

[Thinking of Robert Creeley]


not mine

Leafing through an old notebook, I find many lines that must have been forged in my handwriting.


little twitter

Oh, please tickle me with one of your little twitter poems.


two paths

There’s a difference between poets who answered a calling and poets who pursued a literary career.


certain things

One thing is certain, and I have always known it—the joys of my life have nothing to do with age. They do not change. Flowers, the morning and evening light, music, poetry, silence, the goldfinches darting about...

—May Sarton, quoted in From May Sarton’s Well: Writings of May Sarton (Papier-Mache Press, 1994), selection and photographs by Edith Royce Schade. (p. 46)


book of forms

All the world, things immense and small, things static and moving, are possible models for the poem.


telling talk

The poem was rhetoric heavy.


well-placed pin

Whenever the long poem started to sag, the poet had the good sense to pin it up with a lyric section.


all the right words

The index of that book seemed like a word list for a great poem.


inside the atom

We must be clear that when it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry. The poet, too, is not nearly so concerned with describing facts as with creating images and establishing mental connections.

Niels Bohr, in his first meeting with Werner Heisenberg in early summer 1920, quoted in Theorizing Modernism: Essays in Critical Theory (1993) by Steve Giles, p. 28.


you're a superstar

Simon & Schuster’s book publicity states that Michael Robbins is a “superstar poet.” I did not know that.


what it is

Given that we agree the poem is accessible, would that be the first attribute you’d mark it with?


wait as they whet

One of those pauses during a writing workshop when in the background you could hear steel being sharpened on a grinding wheel.


longer grave

The poet was 5’ 9” tall in his life. I’m told his archive, in the basement of the university library where it’s housed, measures 18 linear feet.


staying grounded

Whatever their skills at language might be, poets should know how to plant and to tend a vegetable or a flower.


when art appears

The most beautiful book would be that which would not be possible to consider as a book.

When art appears, life disappears.

To paint so as not to have to think any more pleases me, to think in order to paint is a piece of nonsense on the high tide of the spirit.

Gallery openings fill me with melancholy, the same goes for weddings and funerals.

Francis Picabia, Yes No: Poems & Sayings (Hanuman Books, 1990), translated by Rémy Hall


revising aristotle

The poem’s drama was in its usage and not in its narrative elements.


twain never met

No other metaphor before.


new game

They invented a new way to play at poetry.


dizzying universe

You have to read haphazardly, open and discover good books by happenstance these days. There are so many poets, so many books (planets), swimming into one’s ken (to steal a phrase from Keats).


went by me

I don’t mind if I miss certain allusions as they sail past me without recognition as long as they ruffle a few brain cells as they pass.


two poets

There are two masters, Antonio Machado and Juan Ramón Jiménez. The first lives on a pure plane of serenity and poetic perfection; a human and celestial poet who has already transcended every sort of struggle, the absolute master of his prodigious inner world. Jiménez is a great poet ravaged by the terrible exaltation of his “I,” lacerated by the reality around him, stung incredibly hard by insignificant things, his ears tuned to the world, which is the true enemy of his marvelous and unique poetic soul.

—Federico Garcia Lorca, “Conversation with Bagaría,” Deep Song and Other Prose (New Directions, 1975), edited and translated by Christopher Maurer.


questionable choice

Asking the poet you once dated to write an epithalamium for your wedding


royal road

If the interpretation of dreams is the via regia to the unconscious, then the interpretation of poems takes the same wondrous road to the unknowable.