inexact fit

A poet knows how hard it is to enfold in language even a very small part of the world.



“Penny for your thoughts,” I said to the pensive poet. “Sad,” he replied, “but that’s more than I made last year from my published work.”


not too pure

Cleanse your spirit of spleen, my teacher said, before exercising your function as critics. Not that the voiding of spleen doesn’t pose certain dangers: there are some souls who have nothing else to offer, who run the risk of blanking themselves out with purgation. “Be pure, be pure, and evermore be pure: but be not too pure,” for we live in essential impurity. Melancholia, black bile—asta bilis—has joined with the poet more than once to produce imperishable pages. There is no need to begrudge the critic a little melancholy. Nonetheless, a little soap here, a little swab there have their place in the household of literature.

Antonio Machado, Juan De Mairena* (Univ. of California Press, 1963), edited and translated by Ben Belitt

*‘Juan De Mairena’ was a pseudonym of Machado's. The Marirena persona being a provincial professor of rhetoric, philosophy and literature. The subtitle of this book: Epigrams, Maxims, Memoranda, and Memoirs of an Apocryphal Professor with an Appendix of Poems from The Apocryphal Songbooks.


on hold

Block: Even Dial-a-Poem put me on hold.


fragment or figment

Forever certain there is a magnificent fragment in my notebook, if only I could find it.


wayside words

Wayside words: Not all words are worth perpetuating.


phenom poet

They had made her so famous so fast that no one would ever take her seriously. She was now phenomenon, not a person.


insufficient condition

A prose poem in which the prose never rose to a condition of poetry.


three polish aphorisms

I had so much joy in my creations that there cannot be a question of merit.
—Jozef Pilsudski (1867-1935)

Tell me what books you have at home; I’ll tell you who you are.
—Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz (1894-1980)

Beyond each corner a number of new directions lie in wait.
—Stanislaw Jerzy Lec (1909-1966)

[Beyond each line-break a number of new directions lie in wait.]

A Treasury of Polish Aphorisms (Polish Heritage Publications, 1997) compiled and translated by Jacek Galazka


no event necessary

Some poems answer an occasion but most arise ex nihilo.


imaginative writing

When he didn’t get the creative writing teaching gig, the poet asked why: His c.v. lacked imagination, was the response he got.


green screen

His writing was merely green screen upon which his images would be layered in.


hear me

The poets tripped over themselves trying to get to the microphone. I’m afraid it was no grail.


pot alive

Thinking back to the pottery class I once went to in which the amateur potters, if they produced a few decent pots, at least went some way toward revealing their secret selves. A coarse-spoken graceless woman would produce something delicate; myself, something like a cow pat. (The vase that turned in stages of collapse into a low-sided dish, then a plate, then did service as an ashtray.) At least from pottery I learned that a pot is either alive or dead…In a pot that deserves to live, the fire still licks around the clay and, even if it is centuries old, the potter still touches his work.

—Elizabeth Smither, The Commonplace Book (Auckland U. Press, 2011), p. 118


arras surface

There was a poem written all over the real poem.


knot straight

All the lines written straight across the page, yet the poem was a knot of language.


said too much

A mind that rivered ceaselessly to the mouth.


size that doesn't matter

Monumentality impresses too easily. Take a few steps back to consider whether the impact is real or initial intimidation due to scale.



So much of the poetry published online becomes just the unnoticed wallpaper of the web.