beyond print

It should be a source of pride to have written a good number of absolutely unpublishable poems.


command performance

A poet who was too much the impresario inside his own poetry.


uncredited character

He had a walk-on part in the literary movement.



Take a commonplace, clean it and polish it, light it so that it produces the same effect of youth and freshness and originality and spontaneity as it did originally, and you have done a poet's job. The rest is literature.

—Jean Cocteau, Le Rappel à l'ordre (1926)



poem before the poem

The ‘proto-poem’—the poem composed only in the mind—will always be much better than the poem.


bridges in space

The lines were bridges over
the emptiness on each side.


see it slant

Before you can ‘tell it slant’ you must first see it at an angle.


controlling interest

A poet whose inclination was to control the material and not to discover what was withheld from him in the material.


but only a little

The Cistercian monk Gilbert of Hoyland (d. 1172) insightfully wrote, “We have to pass beyond human experience but only a little to experience union with God. The divine majesty immeasurably transcends every creature, yet it is as if the divine majesty is close and familiar.” This “only a little” is Emily Dickinson’s impetus and the abiding conviction embodied in all her poetry.

—Charles M. Murphy, Mystical Prayer: The Poetic Example of Emily Dickinson (Liturgical Press, 2019)


have you no shame

Apparently poets don’t embarrass easily.


first and last art

His art never shifted or changed in any significant way. He continued to produce variations of his original vision.


turbulence ahead

Like any flowing substance language is subject to turbulence.


new evaporate

Even if one’s work is new and original, one must ask whether it escapes the ephemeral.


triumph of content

The container never greater than what’s contained: If you think form over content, your poem will fail.


will be written

That city [Tiflis] with all the people I saw in it and with all the things I had gone to experience and all the things I had brought with me will be the same to me as Chopin, Scriabin, Marburg, Venice and Rilke have been, one of the chapters of my Safe Conduct, which goes on all through my life, one of the chapters which, as you know, are not numerous; one of these chapters, and it will be the next one written. I say ‘will be’ because I am a writer, and all this has to be written down and an expression found for it all; I say ‘will be’ because so far as I am concerned it has already become a fact.

—Boris Pasternak, letter to Titian and Nina Tabidze, 13 December 1931, Letters to Georgian Friends, translated from the Russian with an introduction and notes by David Magarshack (Seckler & Warburg, 1967)

I do not write poems. Like a novel, they write
Me, and the course of life accompanies them.

Titian Tabidze (Georgian poet, 1895-1937), died in Stalin's purge of 1937.


too faraway

He wrote the poems that came to him, but never wrote the poems which were only dimly seen.