thought for the new year

There is a lot of nasty stuff in life which comes breaking up our ecstasy, our inheritance. People should read more poetry and dream their dreams.

—Muriel Spark, A Good Comb: The Sayings of Muriel Spark (New Directions, 2020), edited by Penelope Jardine


cosmic index

Just reading the book’s index delighted me with its far-flung references.


act / object

Is it an act or object?

[This is not a question you can ask of the poem.]


critical concern

The critic worried that after his take-down of the Apollonian poet he might be smitten with donkey ears.


tepid praise

I’m mildly interested in that kind of poetry, but not wildly.



The poem you will write.


teaching poets

You can be too good a teacher-poet: One begins being thought of as a better teacher but a lesser poet.


should end well

The main thing about a story is that it should end well, and perhaps it is not too much to say that a story’s ending casts its voice, color, tone and shade over the whole work.

—Muriel Spark, The Informed Air (New Directions, reprint 2018)


blindspot words

Words one has a blindspot for; for example, in my case: perspicuity.


bars not spines

He began to look upon the spines of the unread books as prison bars.


polyhedron box

The ‘box’ we call poetry is a polyhedron still building out new spaces.


bear with me

I think the poet decided to write a very long poem to test who among his readers were beyond discouragement.



Like any first words on the page, a title is a place to get started. The title shouldn't be considered sacred like a totem...it can be discarded at the whim of whatever words follow.


belongs neither

For [Luce] Irigaray, a philosophy that is also a wisdom of love requires a speech which is not ‘authoritarian’ or ‘pedagogical’. Instead, it should have as its aim the production of a ‘sharing’ between the speaker and the listener. When this occurs: ‘between the two something exists that belongs neither to the one nor to the other, nor moreover to any word. And this something must, in part, remain indeterminate’.

—Ben Grant, The Aphorism and Other Short Forms (Routledge, 2016) [quoted sections above come from Luce Irigaray’s The Way of Love (London and New York Continuum, 2002), translation by Heidi Bostic and Stephen Pluh├ácek.]


thus spoken

Specifics accrue to the speaker's authority.


some go this way, some the other

A fork in one’s life: religion or art.


mood bias

Paying more attention to how my mood may influence my reaction to a work of art.


pooh pooh who are you

She was dismissive of Frost’s poetry…ha, ha (last laugh?).

[Thinking of Lisa Jarnot]


through poetry

Poetry, for me, has been a slow education. In the seductiveness of patterned sound. In sensory imagery as a relatively direct mode of thought. In the cryptic encoding and decoding of experience. Ultimately in the exhilarating and unexpected transmission of thought, fact, and feeling that are not only made possible through poetry, but are irrepressible in it.

—Roo Borson, Counterclaims: Poets and Poetries, Talking Back (Dalkey Archive Press, 2020)



A work of art that had no afterlife beyond the death of its creator.


it's all there

He reached a point where it was enough to compose the poem in his mind—no need to write it down.