blake beginning to end blake

Blake began and ended in Blake.

—Walt Whitman, Walt Whitman Speaks (Library of America, 2019), edited by Brenda Wineapple

[Late in Walt Whitman’s life he had the good fortune to meet Horace Traubel. Traubel became devoted to Whitman and over a period of some years faithfully recorded Walt Whitman’s musings on a wide variety of subjects. Eventually 9 volumes of Whitman as recorded by Traubel were published, the last two volumes not published until 1966. Brenda Wineapple has distilled and organized this vast body of material into a single volume, grouping Whitman’s thoughts under headings like Reading, Leaves of Grass, Sex, History, Lincoln, My Philosophy, etc. The above remark by Whitman comes from the section “Writers.”]


mucked hand

What poker players can teach poets is that many more hands should be folded rather than played.


played close to the verse

Know that this poem will die with its secrets.


that poem again

The poem the poet was remembered by versus the poem the poet wished to be remembered by.

[Of the former, I'm thinking of Randall Jarrell and "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner".]


awaken the words

Miss Stein is bringing back life to our language by what appears, at first, to be an anarchic process. First she breaks down the predestined groups of words, their sleepy family habits; then she rebrightens them, examines their texture, and builds them into new and vital shapes.

—Edith Sitwell, Poetry and Criticism (Hogarth Essays No.11, Hogarth Press, 1925)


life stuff

Caution: Don’t try I-do-this-I-do-that poetry unless your life is like Frank O’Hara’s.


seen from a window

Sometimes finding the words is a matter of turning away from the page and looking out the window. Sometimes it requires leaving the building and going for a walk.



Each word was a well of associations.


for the ages

He said he wrote for the ages and it was true he did do a lot of readings in elder-care facilities.


world wins

It’s a given that the poem as written will never match the world as experienced.


found dance

For many days no movement came to me. And then one day came the thought: These columns which seem so straight and still are not really straight, each one curving gently from the base to the height, and each one is in flowing movement, never resting, and the movement of each is in harmony with the others. And as I thought this my arms rose slowly toward the Temple and I leaned forward—and then I knew I had found my dance, and it was a Prayer.
“The Parthenon”
I have noticed that when I introduce any innovation into my art, the music critics insult me in the same terms which they employ ten years later to honor my imitators.
"Fragments and Thoughts"

—Isadora Duncan, The Art of the Dance (Theatre Arts Books, 1969)

[This is a lovely book, nicely illustrated with drawings and photos. And I enjoyed reading Duncan’s thoughts on dance and art more generally. I was particularly interested in her emphasis on dance as natural expression (versus ballet being against nature and harming the body). However, there are a few racist notions in this book, I’m afraid.]


figure off-center

Poet, stand apart…and take your place in the world.


relative value

This one stanza was equal to a thousand other poems.


realistic demand curve

The good thing about print-on-demand is that the poet can’t imagine an audience that doesn’t exist.


prevailing wind

A poet who was a weathervane of the zeitgeist.


proper order

To write a perfect poem you would first have to invent its perfect reader.


poetry camp

Grandmother, when can I go to poetry camp?

What in the hell is poetry camp?

Where a bunch of teenage girls go into the woods to write poetry.

I know what teenage girls do in the woods and it’s not poetry.

—Marilyn Chin, from “Poetry Camp,” A Portrait of the Self as Nation: New and Selected Poems (Norton, 2018)


prolonged second

An instant lasting centuries: To write a haiku with a long half-life.


poem made known

If it gets lodged in your throat, if you choke-up speaking it aloud, it’s a poem.


eyes open

Poet, even during sleep, don’t close your eyes.


after and late

A poet so prone to the elegiac one wondered had he ever lived.