sieve for a poem

Zazen and poetry are both studies of the mind. I find the internal pressure exerted by emotion and by a koan to be similar in surprising and unpredictable ways. Zen is a wonderful sieve through which to pour a poem. It strains out whatever's inessential.

—Chase Twichell, interview Tricycle magazine, Fall 2003.


it was

Poetry of a very high order.


speaking role

A poet who won’t be shouted down.


acute hearing

A poet hears what the universe whispers.


promise of more

It had the vague outlines of a sublime poem.

poetic setting

It didn’t matter how good the poetry was, because I was listening to poetry sitting in the shade of a tree tousled by the breeze.


chance encounter

Poetic determinism: Is that a red flag?

[graffiti encountered today in a hallway at Meow Wolf in Santa Fe]


images over ideas

In writing to [L.W.] Payne about “Domination of Black,” [Wallace Stevens] said, “I am sorry that a poem of this sort has to contain any ideas at all, because its sole purpose is to fill the mind with images… A mind that examines such a poem for its prose content gets absolutely nothing from it.”

Wallace Stevens, quoted from Letters of Wallace Stevens, in a A Thought to be Rehearsed: Aphorism in Wallace Stevens’s Poetry (UMI Research Press, 1983) by Beverly Coyle, p. 45.


spiritual practice

When he was asked his religion, he answered that he practiced Poetry.


beyond all that

Very little of what is in a grammar book or a style guide makes any difference to a poet.


time mired

One of those formalists mired in time.


thing itself

When writing a ‘thing poem’ the prop is the prompt.


known unknown

Save me from the celebrity poet: Give me the ignored poet, uneasy with attention, that’s who I want to read.


knew only the new

A great critic smitten with what’s au courant while lacking a sense for what is universal in poetry.


puzzles me most

Though scarcely a confessional poet I write about my life. Impossible not to, really, since it’s what puzzles me most. The lyric voice permits me to acknowledge that, when I write about frames, I may also be writing about my life and, conversely, though I write about what looks like my life I might as well write about any object that is both discrete and amenable, cordial and solitary. Much as any person is. Much as a frame tends to be.

Of the letters of the alphabet, only one works as a perfect frame. It is the O of the gold frame of Michelangelo’s ‘Doni Tondo’, of the mouth of Beckett’s Not I, the o of omphalos and origin, of globe and moon, of look and book, of for and good. Of open and store. Of close and lose. Of hole and whole. Of do and don’t. Of hold and go. Of no and not. Of alone and know and so and old and, yes, love.

—Vona Groarke, Four Sides Full (The Gallery Press, 2016)


x'ed libris

Dear Librarian, whenever you must unburden your shelves of some books, let me offer that I prefer to find the word WITHDRAWN stamped on the inside cover, rather than the harsher DISCARDED.


fast start

He wrote all his best poems before he was twenty.


first 4-8

By the first 4 to 8 lines the reader will be either all-in or will be looking for that exit line that lets him/her out.