not the marrying kind

The couplet rimes were a bad match: One was turning in circles at the altar, and the other forgot the ring.


rough to read

So much suffering in those lines, you felt it was written with claw marks.


of no matter

The poetry was not up to a level where critical attention would be worthwhile.

[Thinking of Instagram and Twitter poets.]


mosaic array

The poem as a mosaic of well-placed words.


my roller coaster


For half a century
Poetry was the paradise
Of the solemn fool.
Until I came along
And built my roller coaster.

Go up, if you feel like it.
It's not my fault if you come down
Bleeding from your nose and mouth.

by Nicanor Parra, Poems and Antipoems (New Directions, 1966), translated by Miller Williams

[I changed this post because I realized in 2016 I'd posted the same poem, "Young Poets." Not that a good poem, one I've memorized since my youth, shouldn't be posted twice or thrice or a trillion times, but I'm trying not repeat myself. Parra, for me, is one of the unique poets.]


green space

A nature poem good enough to be named a state park or protected green space.


mind the gap

A poem complete in its conception is necessarily compromised in composition.


inflection point

A book of poems that if it didn’t change the course of poetry, at least inflected it.


and another

Successive drafts have a point of diminishing returns.


shows promise

Sometimes it’s enough that reading a poem makes you want to read another or the next one.


implies another mark

     Every time I set up a blank canvas or a blank piece of paper, I experience the same feeling—queasiness, something approaching panic, and a profound lack of self-belief. There are a limitless number of marks that could be made, and almost all of them will be mistakes. That is, they will set up a logic which will lead the picture to banality or pointless mimicry. For every mark implies another. Will that circle be repeated or answered by different shape? Will it be a sun, a plate, a face? That stuttering horizontal line—it’s the sea isn’t it? Or if it’s not, you’d better work hard and fast to make that clear. And so on.
     One of the reasons painters tend to develop a signature style and stick to it is that this helps answer the original panic. Some people will always begin with an image at the centre of the picture plane. It seems that Picasso mostly does this---a face, a bird, a group of figures, will shoulder themselves out of the centre, and the lines will press away to the edges of the paper or canvas. Other painters think very hard about edges, and work inwards. Oddly, because his pictures mostly involve a central shimmering block of colours, I think Mark Rothko probably painted that way. But an initial, bold decision about how to break up the picture surface, and—to put it banally—what will go where, helps any painter get going. And once you have a way in, you are likely to use it again and again; and that way in will hugely influence what’s going to happen next.

—Andrew Marr, A Short Book About Painting (Quadrille Publishing Ltd, 2017)


ride the breath

Less inspire and more spur.


orts, scraps and fragments

A collected poems was just published. In time the sweepings of the famous poet’s fragments and unfinished work will be published.

peer review

A poet-critic who was a little too politic.


interchangeable counterparts

Titles and last lines are more alike than different. Typically both try to do too much.


meteor strike

To drop an improbable word within a line a poetry.


invisible hand

A poet is the reverse of a chess-player. He not only doesn’t see the piece and the board, he doesn’t see his own hand—which indeed may not be there.

—Marina Tsvetaeva, from title essay of Art in the Light of Conscience: Eight Essays on Poetry (Bloodaxe Books, 2010), introduced and translated by Angela Livingstone, p. 153.


secured rooms

When I first heard of blockchain technology, I immediately thought of a strong poem in stanzas.


alt audience

Her poems would only appeal to an uncommon reader.


scale and duration

Pure technical mastery on a large scale or over a long period always commands admiration.


carriage return

Old enough to remember the manual typewriter and the sound of the carriage return bar, throwing the line back against the wall of the left margin, where it would once more have to fight its way forward.



A language like English will always try to eat the choicest parts of foreign languages.