literary props

His was a house stager’s library.


prompted by prufrock

In the barroom the men come and go
Talking of DiMaggio.


not alive until

One day, poetry saved my life.


its roots in language

The ontology of poetry is inextricably rooted in language itself.


didn't know that

Something I just learned today: The ‘literary piano’ was an early nickname for the typewriter.

[Later I heard the term 'alphabet piano' which I like even better.]


prose resolve

The prose we write about poems must try not to shrivel before the poems we write.

—Frank Bidart, Counterclaims: Poets and Poetries, Talking Back (Dalkey Archive Press, 2020), edited by H. L. Hix.


poem evident

A poem is evidence of human presence…no less than a fossilized footprint on a riverbank from prehistoric times.


far fort

A poet stationed at the outpost of a college town otherwise surrounded by hostiles.


so long longhand

Will I ever again return to writing longhand, and the pleasure of seeing the letters unfold slowly into words across the page. Nothing written can be taken back without crossing-out.


advantage poet

Philosophers and poets are both familiar with the power of the aphorism. Poets have an advantage because they’re not worried about justifying their assertions.


older and shorter

Variation on Pascal: If I was older I’d have written you a shorter poem.


no echoes

Slowly from nice neat letters;
doing things well
is more important than doing them.


Wake up singers!
Time for the echoes to end
and the voices to begin.


Quarreler, boxer
fight it out with the wind.
It’s not the fundamental I
that the poet is searching for
but the essential you.

—Antonio Machado, There is No Road (White Pine Press, 2003), Mary G. Berg and Dennis Maloney translators.


free from mirrors

In the spare and luminous language of Machado, we find extraordinary sensitivity to place and landscape, as well as a genuine feeling for local folklore and for song as a living tradition from which to learn. His poetry is not the poetry of closed rooms but that of the open air. Many of his poem were written as the result of long walks through towns and hillsides. He often entered the inner world by first penetrating the outer world of landscapes and objects. “It is,” Machado said, “in the solitude of the countryside that a man ceases to live with mirrors.”

From the preface by Mary G. Berg and Dennis Maloney to There is No Road (White Pine Press, 2003) by Antonio Machado.


no horizon

A poem in which you could see forever.


no limit

Writing at its best will not admit its limits in language.


dies in order to rise

In a certain sense the act of writing dies in print, then awaits resurrection by audience reaction.


dream imagination

One value of dreams is that they build confidence in the power of our imaginations.


escaped pen

Writing in bed: Too much scrabbling about the bedclothes searching for my pen.


close but not long

For a poet, all reading is close reading—which may explain why some of them have such difficulty getting through novels.

—Peter Robinson, Spirit of the Stair: Selected Aphorisms (Shearsman Books Ltd., 2009)


apology for political poetry

Someone will always be making apologies for political poetry.


drop zone

A poet doesn’t sit down to write so much as s/he must parachute over unknown territory.