metaphor go ahead

Our metaphors go on ahead of us, they know before we do. And thank goodness for that, for if I were dependent on other ways of coming to knowledge I think I'd be a very slow study. I need something to serve as a container for emotion and idea, a vessel that can hold what's too slippery or charged or difficult to touch.

—Mark Doty, “Souls on Ice


parochial dialect

Many artists utter universals when they speak of process, composition, creation, etc.; when, at most, they should be speaking in a parochial dialect.


all marked

The dream of a perfect commonplace book wherein each page might be marked or underlined as a place to return to.


famous flaws

Flaws in a work become attributes over time: We accept and then praise the author/artist for not seeing the missteps.


stacking up

When a book gets delivered to your home before you have finished the last one ordered.


somewhere in the margins

Awake, it’s trickier business, this saying
so deliberately what we can only hope means anything.
Especially when we’re at it this late, weighing words
until they somehow seem to matter, until
we look at them again in the next day’s excruciating light
and realize mostly we stayed up all night for not nearly enough.


          And you wherever you are,
with your own frantic pages of notes to get back to,
another night drunk down to the cold bottom of the cup,
imagining an even better poem somewhere in the margins
of the best you can do right now,
you know how that one goes.

David Clewell, from “This Book Belongs to Susan Someone,” Blessings in Disguise (Viking Penguin, 1991, The National Poetry Series)

[I've been away from St. Louis for 35 years, but David was a poet I was close to in my last few years there.]


critical making

All artists are critics by means of their making certain things rather than others, and by making those things in certain ways rather than others.


not less or more

If Woolf is your source text, your erasure poem can't go wrong: Every word in the text was well tested before you came along with your eraser.


subject extent

Some poets change subject matter poem to poem; others change subject matter only after exhausting a series of poems related to a single subject.


genre renegade

I’ve never accepted that Joyce’s works are classed prose and not poetry.


soft start

The beginning was too benign.


under grandeur, grandeur under

The business of the poet and novelist is to show the sorriness underlying the grandest things, and the grandeur underlying the sorriest things.

—Thomas Hardy, from 1885 notebook; quoted in The Life of Thomas Hardy, p. 171


little done well

Most poems fail because they accomplish very well so little.


the time it took

He said he’d written the poem only today, which was true, as much as it was true that the poem had been composed over the better part of his life.


wordly love

A poet too much in love with her vocabulary.


members only

A poet who desperately wanted to join club Avant-Garde.


priceless poetry

Poetry stands in resistance to this commercial culture. It is not about acquiring material wealth; instead, it’s about human insight, genuine human connectivity, and promotes mindfulness and awakening. In that way, poetry is priceless.

—Arthur Sze, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Interview with Arthur Sze by Kenji C. Liu, Jan 26, 2020.


wait it out

He’d become much more willing to wait for a poem to come.


you say tomato

Any two people can scan the same line and disagree on the stresses.


red zone

When writing the last 20 lines of a poem, the poet is in the red zone.

[On Super Bowl LIV Sunday]


solo act

The poetry reading turned into a one-person play.