resource management

A poet prone to waste a lot of white space.


holding on

Books for some of us are handholds over the abyss.


tooth and nail

An artist and a writer lived together harmoniously while their books and artwork battled for every inch of wall space.


bio overblown

One of those everything-but-the-kitchen-sink bios trying too hard to impress.


poetry got small

Like the character Norma Desmond from the 1950 film Sunset Boulevard, she was the kind of poet you could imagine responding to an interviewer who'd suggested her reputation had faded, with the line: “I am big. It’s poetry that got small.”


this is the world

Jean Cocteau said mystery exists only in precise things—people in their situations, situations in people. Because I believe the visionary life has nothing to do with a necessarily transcendent existence, I like most of the poetry I read. I believe most poets know this is the world; and when you try to lead a special life or write a special poetry, you are dancing with an imaginary partner at a meaningless dance to which you have invited yourself and no one else.

—Frank Stanford, “With the Approach of the Oak the Axeman Quakes,” Fifty Contemporary Poets: The Creative Process (Longman, 1977), edited by Alberta T. Turner


thousands of lines of me

Its critical rhetoric couched in politics and theory, language poetry was perhaps the most self-indulgent of all poetry movements.


product placement

There were so many brand names popping up in her poetry, I was certain she’d struck some product placement deals before publication.


carrying poetry

Many of us carry a few touchstone poems. Perhaps some of us live by a handful of poems.


perfect thing

Only a very short poem can be perfect. Perfect but small.


the poetic vertical

Every real poem, then, contains the element of time-stopped, time which does not obey the meter, time which we shall call vertical to distinguish it from ordinary time which sweeps past horizontally along with the wind and the waters of the stream. Whence this paradox, which we must state quite clearly: whereas prosodic time is horizontal, poetic time is vertical.

—Gaston Bachelard, “The Poetic Moment and the Metaphysical Moment,” The Right to Dream (The Dallas Institute Publications, 1988), translated by J. A. Underwood, 172.


poems first

Read the poems before you read the bio.


surfs the edge

She was a critic who could keep up.

[Thinking of Marjorie Perloff]


words before markers

Put words before reading cues (punctuation).


altar and rituals

The altar of the writing desk, and the rituals of sitting there.


obscure grasping

The poetry that comes into being as a result of the working of the creative intuition upon poetic knowledge therefore reveals both an “obscure grasping of the real” and “an obscure grasping of the soul of the poet.” Maritain calls the former the “direct” sign of a poetic act and the latter a “reverse” sign of the same act. Both signs are inextricably involved in the making of a poem.

For if at the source of the poetic act there is the experience which I have tried to describe, in which the obscure grasping of the real, resounding in the creative subjectivity, is at the same time an obscure grasping of the soul of the poet, it will be necessary that the work be made a manifestation of both at once. This work is an object, and must always maintain its consistency and its proper value as an object, and at the same time it is a sign, at once a “direct” sign of the secrets perceived in things, of their avowal, of some irrecusable verity of their nature or history, transpierced by the creative intuition, and a “reverse” sign of the substance of the poet in the art of spiritual communication and revealing itself to itself. [Jacques and Ra├»ssa Maritain, The Situation of Poetry(Philosophical Library, 1955), p 84]

Samuel Hazo, The World within the Word: Maritain and the Poet (Franciscan U. Press, 2018)

JF: I wanted to like the book more than I did. So much muzzy metaphysics in Maritain’s poetics. Ample amounts of Maritain are quoted, full of abstract words and concepts, presented as though self-evident, but Maritain offers almost no textual evidence to buttress his assertions. Hazo provides many quotes from other authors to try to underpin Maritain’s bold but unfounded ideas. I give Hazo credit for linking Keats and Hopkins to some of Maritain’s ideas. However, the two poets, and their notions of ‘poetics’, prove to be more relevant to the creative process than any of Maritain’s grand notions.   


slack science

Critical writing using the language of science without its necessary rigor.


two poles

There are poets who come from the word, and poets who come from the world. Most poets are suspended in that strange and uneasy magnetism between those two poles.


spark, spur, start

To find something in the inchoate to get the poem started.


goes with the territory

I hardly know a poet who is not a logophile.


guiding spirits of lit

Certain writers (e.g., Dante, Shakespeare, Dickinson,...) are no longer historical literary figures, having transcended the bonds of time, they’ve become guiding spirits of literature.