ray of light

One day [Gerard Manley] Hopkins was walking down a garden pathway when he suddenly stopped, and looking down toward a spot on the ground, began to turn round on his heel. After he had been doing this for some time an alarmed gardener, thinking him slightly queer, asked him what he was doing; to which Hopkins replied that he was trying to get the “inscape” of one single piece of gravel which was caught in the sun’s ray, and which he was trying to see from all angles.

Quoted from Donald Nicholl, Recent Thought in Focus (Sheed and Ward 1952), p. 70.


exposed and open

In order to understand art, one must be exposed to art in as many of its manifestations as possible, and then one must be open to those varied experiences, in order to develop a true and abiding feeling for art.


a poem contends

As soon as it's made, a poem contends with formless that would erase it, that would cause it to fade into the din of background noise.


annotations mon ami

From the margin notes in the used book he was reading he recognized a kindred reader.


no longer one of us

One of those people you knew who had given up on being a poet, and who now seemed more ordinary to you.


ideal poem

I write or try to write as if convinced that, prior to my attempt, there existed a true text, a sort of Platonic script, which I had been elected to transcribe or record.

—Donald Justice, "Notes of an Outsider," Platonic Scripts (U. of Michigan Press, 1984)


books instead of toilet paper

They closed the libraries during the pandemic. Lucky for him he was a prepper when it came to hoarding books.


lyric poets and others

There are only lyric poets and poets who write other texts we call poems.


plagiarist's defense

Legal doctrine: Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Ignorance of the literature is no excuse.


write this way

Too many writing guides pointing to the same kind of good writing.


life's work

A critic who conducted us through one poem with insight and due respect.


the image

In the image, imbalance suggests movement, a movement toward balance and stability.
The image is the unlocked door between the adjoining rooms of imagination and memory.
The poem is not a system for the reproduction of images, but one for the making of images.
The image allows us to experience time as if it were a landscape.
Through the image, memory forestalls the ephemeral.

—Eric Pankey, from “The Image,” Vestiges: Notes, Responses & Essays, 1988-2018 (Parlor Press, 2019)


first poem

Remember the excitement, even thrall, of composing your first real poem, however rudimentary: the images, the turns of phrase, the surprises of diction, pattern and word sounds, etc. In a sense every poem written since is a grasping after that first experience.


paper bandages

Some poems are bandages for the wounds of the soul, the lacerations of the spirit.


text takes a backseat

Even the broadside seems to have sacrificed the simple virtues of text to visual impact.


road kill

He was so long on the poetry circuit, all he knew was being a performer.


skim off the best

The poet skims off the best of life and puts it in his work. That’s why his work is beautiful and his life is bad.

—Leo Tolstoy

[A Writer’s Commonplace Book (Michael O’Mara Books Ltd., 2006), compiled and edited by Rosemary Friedman.]


read for

Read for comprehension, and for disorientation, dislocation, and dizziness.


range of years

As a young poet he imagined himself a Rimbaud, but after twenty years at the university he’d become John Crowe Ransom.


life stories

Many people want to write poetry only if they’re allowed to tell their life stories.


wordless moment

The image, though composed of words, adds a moment of nonverbal sensing to the poem.


well-made well-worn

Often the talk of craft, the importance of craft, belies a conservative approach when it comes to art-making.