life elevated

Art is an experience that arouses us beyond what our day-to-day offers.


ordinary uncommon

The writer's problem is, how to strike the balance between the uncommon and the ordinary so as on the one hand to give interest, on the other to give reality.

—Thomas Hardy, Notebooks (1881)


library paradox

When I had fewer books I read more. Or maybe I read the books I had better.


don't stay too long

The writer welcomed the interviewer into his office, but the guest chair offered turned out to be quite uncomfortable.


pierced consciousness

The first line went in like a hypodermic needle, quick with a faint twinge.


no mail

The epistolary poem was marked ‘Return to Sender’.


literary lineage

A critic who could take any new poet and show the links to all her/his literary lineage.


roots with dirt

These days
whatever you have to say, leave
the roots on, let them

And the dirt

    just to make clear
    where they come from.

—Charles Olson

[Quoted in Dale Smith's essay re "Slow Poetry."]


go big or

Sorry, but if you’re not a romantic poet, in time people will pay less attention.



A political poet whose mouth was like a flamethrower: He had the sympathetic audience leaning back in their seats to avoid being singed.


tough slog

The experience of reading a long poem is enhanced merely by one’s sense of accomplishment.


word wait

The poet had waited a long time to use that particular word in a poem.


time running out

He kept waiting for that one great run of poems.


describe then design

We are searching for some kind of harmony between two intangibles: a form which we have not yet designed and a context which we cannot properly describe.

—Christopher Alexander, A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction (Oxford U. Press, 1977), by Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa and Murray Silverstein.


real struggle

The imagination as nemesis.


other utterance

First line: announce something other.


beyond the book

Books often don’t go on, but certain poems do persist in the public consciousness.


remains airborne

A poem that somehow remained airborne in the zeitgeist.


unsteady reading

The lectern was wobbly…the poems read even shakier.


one stroke

It is better to paint a good unfinished
picture than a poor completed
one. Many believe that a picture
is finished when they have
worked in as many details as possible.
—One stroke can be a completed
work of art.

—Edvard Munch, The Private Journals of Edvard Munch: We are Flames which Pour Out of the Earth (U. of Wisconsin Press, 2005) edited and translated by J. Gill Holland


rescued and restored

Found on an acknowledgments page: The poem “Title Here” was published in an ill-advised version, based on an editor’s suggestions, in Lit Magazine. The poem has been restored to its original state in this volume.


the nothing that is

Nothing is what those without content write about.