five year mark

It took me two years to find the book, and three more before I finished reading it.


shadow world

Most superstitions are poetic.


content first

What matters to me even more than the shapeliness and the dance of language is what the poem discovers deeper down than the gracefulness and pleasures in figures of speech. I respond most to what is found out about the heart and spirit, what we can hear through the language. Best of all, of course, is when the language and other means of poetry combine with the meaning to make us experience what we understand. We are most likely to find this union by starting with the insides of a poem rather than with its surface, with its content rather than with its packaging. Too often in workshops and classrooms there is a concentration on the poem’s garments instead of its life blood.

Linda Gregg, American Poet (2001)


lector liberalis

A critic is a reader who takes liberties with the text.


path of half-truths

There are hundreds of ways for a poem to fail, but the easiest course is to falsify.


strains of thought

There was music in the meditation.


piñata poem

Sitting in the workshop hearing the others critique his poem he began to visualize them as blind-folded children flailing at the air, trying to strike the piñata in hopes it would spill some candy and trinkets at their feet.

looking past the crowd

An artist doesn’t mistake audience for achievement.


glistening still

We thought the blood thinned, our weight
lessened, that our substance was reduced
by simple happiness. The oleander is thick
with leaves and flowers because of spilled
water. Let the spirit marry the heart.
When I return naked to the stone porch,
there is no one to see me glistening.
But I look at the almond tree with its husks
cracking open in the heat. I look down
the whole mountain to the sea. Goats bleating
faintly and sometimes bells. I stand there
a long time with the sun and the quiet,
the earth moving slowly as I dry in the light.

—Linda Gregg, from "Glistening"

[My friend the poet Linda Gregg died in the early hours of yesterday.]


too late to alter

If you tried to rewrite this old poem, it would be tantamount to trying to rewrite your life.


more than a game

Dharani, in Japan, means the practice of reciting certain passages from Buddhist scriptures in Sanskrit, without translation, which is said to endow the reciter with a range of virtues. “Rhetoric” (kigyo) is regarded as one of the ten evils in Buddhism as noted earlier. Shinkei, then, equated poetry with Buddhism in absolute terms, and did not even allow the suggestion that poetry may be fiction.

It may be said that the effort to find spiritual grace in poetry peaked more or less with Shinkei, a renga poet and therefore Bashō’s predecessor. At any rate, it was this tradition that affected Bashō as he strove to elevate poetry to something more than a game.

—Hiroaki Sato, On Haiku (New Directions, 2018)


hidden lines

A poem taking advantage of the camouflage afforded by the paragraph.


painted sign

A half-worn sign on a brick wall is a kind of found poem.


double or nothing

The poet said he was paid zero for his last reading, so he needed to charge me something. I offered to double what he was paid for his last reading. He went silent on the phone…I guess he was considering my offer.


sense of an ending

Sometimes the poem must end on an unsatisfying last line.


solve for x

To think of the poem as an algebraic formula that has both constants (images) and variables (metaphors).


not all but each

If it were possible to define in a phrase the place Cernuda occupies in modern Spanish-language poetry, I would say he is the poet who speaks not for all, but for each one of us who makes up the all. And he wounds us in the core of that part of each of us “which is not called glory, fortune, or ambition” but the truth of ourselves.

—Octavio Paz, On Poets and Others (Arcade Publishing, 1986), translation by Michael Schmidt.



The first line was a feint.


make quick work of

Be suspicious of what you finish easily.