single-use product

One of those ‘exercise poems’ that should be marked ‘Please dispose of properly after use’.


stilted speech

Syllabics often make the language sound unnatural, for good or for bad.


manners or mischief

A poetry of manners, a poetry of mischief.


radar screen

It is an accuracy of vision, an account of now, an account of memory or a vision, an account of a dream, of a fiction totally imagined, described, accurately and exactly to our best ability beyond misstatement, beyond misshaping any shape of our idea. In our practice as poets, to be inaccurate becomes a real Lie. All our attention is on the page. We cannot account for the hours spent—we have only the page. A radar screen watcher works a high vigilance profession. Our attention is so intense that it is a vigilance, too.

—Laura Jensen, “Lessons in Form,” Conversant Essays: Contemporary Poets on Poetry (Wayne Stat U. Press, 1990), edited by James McCorkle


sum of its parts

A great first line and a fine ending, with all the chutes & ladders lines in between.


poem place

A good poem dwells in the mouth while making a home in the mind.


read to be or not to be

You have to read a lot of poetry in order to know what kind of poet you want to be...and what kind you don’t.


obscure worlds

As print litmags, always obscure, fade into archives, the online litmags blot out cyberspace.


missteps are steps

A poem that flaunted its flaws, knowing they were necessary to the whole.


eye poet

   In Miss Moore’s time…the poet found it indispensable to work directly with the printed page, which is where, and only where, his cats and trees exist.…We may say that this became possible when poets began to use typewriters. And we may note that Miss Moore has been in her lifetime: a librarian; an editor; and a teacher of typewriting: locating fragments already printed; picking and choosing; making, letter by letter, neat pages.
   Her poems are not for voice; she senses this herself reading them badly; in response to a question, she once said that she wrote them for people to look at….Moore’s cats, her fish, her pangolins and ostriches exist on the page in tension between the mechanisms of print and the presence of a person behind those mechanisms.

—Hugh Kenner, “The Experience of the Eye: Marianne Moore’s Tradition,” Modern American Poetry: Essays in Criticism (David McKay Co., 1970), edited by Jerome Mazzaro.


for whom the taco bell tolls

I don’t have enough time ahead of me on earth to read TBQ.


undo influence

Certain poets let their keen interests—be it Zen, Marxism, bird-watching, etc.—infuse their verse, and the poems suffer the influence.


eyes open and aware

Turn a line of poetry as you would turn a corner in a part of the town you don’t know.


fiction enough

By and large, poets believe the world is fiction enough. (Maybe Wallace Stevens said that already.)


stamp collecting

All science is either physics or stamp collecting.
Ernest Rutherford

All poetry is either lyric or stamp collecting.


short and sweet

It’s easier to judge longer poems. Short poems are more difficult to rank for merit.


unwieldy lines

Though written in level and even lines, unwieldy was what he was going for.


authoritative line

[One point from a list of 14 principles of composition, which he prefaces by saying, "I honestly do not know how consistent I am in using principles of composition. Certainly the compromise between eye and ear is not always the same kind of compromise. Every poem makes its own peculiar demands. Still, I will try to list a few principles by which I generally work."]

11. Don’t explain away a line which has an authority of its own, even if the line may puzzle the intellect—i.e., don’t write for people more interested in understanding a poem than experiencing it. This is not the same as being willfully difficult or obscure, which is merely tiresome.

—Peter Klappert, in “O’Connor The Bad Traveler,” Fifty Contemporary Poets: The Creative Process (Longman, 1977), edited by Alberta T. Turner


why is your face familiar

The character actor and the major poet were both trying to get recognized in the local bar. The character actor won.


back to basics

Stayed home, sewed his own clothes, wrote poems.


staid style

That staid style that shows too much conscious control over the material.



To say this poem stands for me.


worth glory

All art is religious in a sense that no artist would work unless he believed that there was something in life worth glorifying. This is what art is about.

—Henry Moore, Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations (U. of California, 2002), Alan Wilkinson, editor.