services rendered pro bono

I’m afraid most poets do most of their professional work 'pro bono'.


not timebound

A poem that even time cannot tame.


answered in advance

The question posed in the poem was clearly a coy set-up for an answer the poet already possessed.


a few more questions to ask

Not so much an interview as it was a debriefing of the poet after she’d published her latest book.


blind curve

Though dangerous when driving, a blind curve is sought after when writing/reading a line of verse.


long view

Borges’ long view of writers and readers:

            We forget that we are all dead men
            conversing with dead men.


In Alberto Manguel’s short book, With Borges, we can continue in this morbid frame of mind:

For Borges, the core of reality lay in books; reading books, writing books, talking about books. In a visceral way, he was conscious of continuing a dialogue begun thousands of years before and which he believed would never end. Books restoring the past. “In time,” he said to me, “every poem becomes an elegy.”

Quoted in Jonathan Greene’s Gists Orts Shards II (Broadstone Books, 2011)



Definition of “necropastoral”: The uneasy feeling a professor-poet gets standing at the edge of a woods abutting the campus.


duly noted

It’s not important what others in the workshop say about your poem, it’s only important what you hear enough to take note of.


more than familiar

The syllable is intimate with silence.


inhabited lines

Left with the feeling that a person lives in those lines.


after dante

In the middle of making my poem,
I found I was lost in a dark wood.


all of what she was

[Lorine Niedecker] wrote to Bob Nero, “I dream of an ease of speech that takes in the universe” (April 20, 1967). At the same time she recalled her beginnings: “Early in life I looked back of our buildings and said, ‘I am what I am because of all this’. “Lake Superior” negotiates the local and the global, the self and the species: we are what we are because of all this. Her point of access is the unselfconscious notations of geology and pre-history. There, through her own painstaking practice, she locates the solace of an immanent infinite.

Jenny Penberthy, “Writing Lake Superior,” Radical Vernacular: Lorine Niedecker and the Poetics of Place (U. of Iowa Press, 2008), edited by Elizabeth Willis.


lyric first

When we think of poetry we first think of the lyric. The lyric being poetry’s quintessence.


seen & unseen

The physical act of sewing, with the seen and unseen thread, feels like composing a line of poetry.


to parts unknown

A missing persona poem.


commonplace book

The wondrous passages I can only dimly recall. For many years I trusted memory too much when reading. Now I write things down.


reading matter

Not long ago I wrote a series of poems in response to the collection, The Dream We Carry, by Olav Hauge, a Norwegian. He opened a door for me that I had not known stood closed. He deals in elementals. “A good poem,” he wrote, “should smell of tea, / or of raw earth and freshly cut wood.”

Art is a conversation with the past. Sometimes it is an argument.

—Frederick Smock, On Poetry: Palm-Of-The-Hand Essays (Broadstone Books, 2017)


looking in all the wrong places

The scholars scour the poet’s archive for personal anecdotes, familial first causes, and everything else quotidian and pedestrian that the poet attempted to transcend when writing.


short shrift

Not a review, but a nod of notice. (The problem with microreviews is if they’re positive they’re indistinguishable from blurbs.)


praise be

When encountering a foreign word or phrase, pause not only to puzzle out the meaning but also to praise the generosity of translators.


speak poet

Charge for the observant poet: See something, say something.