declaration not an answer

A manifesto arises, it is not solicited.

[A manifesto lives on impulse. It is not as slow to develop as a project.]


the great explainer

“There are a few words and references in this poem you should know…” Please don't. If I was reading the poem on the page I'd have to experience it without your elucidations. If need be, I'm capable of going back through, using various resources available to me, and working out what may have gotten by me.


frost warning

Frost was the imModernist poet.


not so bad really

She wrote not a review but an excuse for the poetry.


miracle worker

There are no miracles, there is only what you make.

Tamara de Lempicka


more truly and more strange

A poet welcomes language anomalies into his writing


word worker

Poetry not as a hobby but as obsession.


market in action

If you want to gauge the current esteem (and value) of poets, those dead and some older living ones, then peruse the pages of a rare book dealer’s sales catalog. Is the name even there, and what kind of prices are listed for the books and other collectible literary material?


not feeling it

As with the illusive ‘cold fusion’, more energy is imputed to the line break than can actually be measured.


burying the undertaker

A poem was read at the memorial for the critic who’d declared that poetry was dead.


great emotions

The poet makes [humankind] realize how great are the great emotions which they, in a smaller way, have already experienced.

— G. K. Chesterton, The Soul of Wit: G. K. Chesterton on William Shakespeare (Dover Publications, 2012)


outside looking on

A poet on the periphery…where else would s/he be?


what is not said

Reticence is a resource of poetry.


in the thick of things

Often in the presence of other art, or one might say under the pressure of other art, poetry arises.


head on a block

The reader was not tall. The podium was high, wooden and wide. A little head bouncing atop a butcher block was what the audience saw.


shells or gems

Erotic poems, gnomic poems on erotic themes, as we see, rather than love poems. At first glance, we may even wonder if love for anyone in particular appears in these poems: either Cavafy experienced it very little or he has been discretely silent in its regard. On a closer look, however, almost nothing is missing: encounter and parting, desire slaked or unappeased, tenderness or satiety—is this not what remains of every erotic life once it has passed into the crucible of memory? Yet it is evident, too, that clarity of vision, refusal to overestimate, hence wisdom, but not less perhaps the differences in condition and age, and probably the venality of certain experiences, afford the lover a kind of retrospective detachment in the course of the hottest pursuits or the most ardent carnal joys. Doubtless, too, the poem’s slow crystallization, in Cavafy’s case, tends to distance him from the immediate shock, to confirm presence only in the form of memory, at a distance where the voice, so to speak, no longer carries, for in this poetry where “I” and “he” contend for primacy, “you,” the beloved addressed is singularly absent. We are at the antipodes of ardor, of passion, in the realm of the most egocentric concentration and the most avaricious hoarding. Consequently the gesture of the poet and of the lover handling his memories is not so different from that of the collector of precious or fragile objects, shells or gems, or even of the numismatist bending over his handful of pure profiles accompanied by a number and a date, those numbers and dates for which Cavafy’s shows an almost superstitious predilection. Beloved object.

—Marguerite Yourcenar, “A Critical Introduction to Cavafy,” The Dark Brain of Piranesi and Other Essays (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1984), translated by Richard Howard.


hold your tongue

In a workshop if one person is always the first speak, then he/she sets the trajectory of the discussion. Don’t be first to speak all the time.


all special poets

After its chapbook competition, the press announced the winner. And in the same announcement, it listed a small group of runners-up. [Fine.] Then the press listed a larger group of finalists. Then it listed a similar group of semifinalists! [Wow.] Then the press went on to thank all the other poets who had submitted their chapbooks (and paid their fee) but didn't get mentioned in the long list of poets who were runners-up, finalists, and even semifinalists.


end of it

That poet gets credit for reaching a boundary condition. But that’s it.


cheap talk

"The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter."

Dashiell Hammett's detective Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon (1930)

The cheaper the critic, the gaudier the patter.