poem itself

There may be indefinite ranges of symbolic references behind the simplest Japanese poem….If one did not know the mythology he could, from participation in the poem, invent an equivalent one. This is an objective-subjective, fact-and-symbol relationship which is perhaps the defining characteristic of all great poetry. In Japanese verse it stands alone: not an aspect or factor of the poem, but the poem itself.

—Kenneth Rexroth, “Classic Japanese Poetry,” Classics Revisited (New Directions, 1965) [p. 96]


horrid words

The most horrid words are those deployed in poems only to make a rhyme.

the many and the few

Many read the long demanding poem in part, few could aver to having read all.


to build a fire

I have many poetry books. If times get tough, I can burn them for heat.


imagination and integrity

A poem in which the bravura of the imagination is matched by the integrity of the verisimilitude.


striking and prominent

When I compose a poem I generally begin with the most striking and prominent part, and if I feel pleased with my execution of that, I then proceed to fill up the other parts.

—William Wordsworth, as quoted by Alexander Dyce in his Reminiscences.


a few good ones

He wouldn’t write a minor poem. Thus, he wrote very few poems.



Always surprised to find ready kindling in the notebook. A few phrases, an odd sentence or two, and in no time at all a fire is built.



His bastion study fortified with bookcases.


hear it

Poetry: Hear it, hear it first; that’s its heart.


best parts

Sometimes the best things about a book are its preface or afterword, it’s footnotes or its bibliography.


intimate junction

That is essentially what you get in H.D., very static, very imagistic, but if there’s anything that can be said to last from the world of the imagist turmoil around the time World War I, it is H.D.

Again, it’s not for all readers. To some people it may seen excessively cold and excessively distant, excessively static, excessively idealistic; and yet, it’s hard to read it without being disturbed by thoughts of what life could be and maybe has been at one instance of historical time, that maybe on one or two of these Greek islands there has been this intimate junction among flowers and wind and the seasons, a conjunction between that and the utmost creativity of their own hands and imagination, an unselfconscious sexuality and concourse and intercourse among human beings. H.D.’s is essentially an island world, almost platonist, an island world held by an utmost effort of the will in a kind of equilibrium. That essentially H.D.’s world, very small, very intense, very static, and in the best of it, very, very beautiful. I can take a lot of H.D. The only trouble is, there’s not a lot of her. If you want to pursue her further, there’s a Selected Poems issued by Grove Press, in paperback, which you can get. I love to read her when I’m about half-drunk. It’s a wonderful antidote to the easy sentimentality: all of this stuff about marble and being tempered in fiery crucibles to bring forth a perfect shape.

—James Dickey, “The Georgian Poets,” James Dickey: Classes on Modern Poets and the Art of Poetry (U. of S. Carolina Press, 2004), edited by Donald J. Greiner [183]


being sharpened

As you read the poem you could hear the poet whetting a last line.


language exceeds

A poet amazed that the poem exceeded his modest expectation. But language is like that.



Like a bad general on a battlefield, the critic underestimated content’s force.


nothing to show

Unlike a person asked to solve an algebraic equation, the poet cannot answer the charge: “Show your work.”


fascinating fascist

Ezra Pound: the dicta dictator.


notebook memory

Memory no match for a notebook at hand.

[Being a digital age, any 'notes app' could suffice.]


brakes on perception

The language of poetry is difficult, laborious language, which puts the brakes on perception. In some particular cases the language of poetry approaches the language of prose, but this does not violate the law of difficulty.
Moreover, there is a strong tendency to create new language, specifically intended for poetry; as we know, Vladimir Khlebnikov is leading this school. Thus, we arrive at a definition of poetry as decelerated, contorted speech. Poetic speech is constructed speech.

—Victor Shklovsky, Victor Shklovsky: A Reader (Bloomsbury, 2017), edited and translated by Alexandra Berlina [94; 95]


faithful record

Though he did create texts he resisted being called a ‘creative’ writer—he preferred thinking of himself as making a faithful record of what humankind he’d encountered and those parts of world he’d experienced.


faith-based readership

For a poet any readership one might imagine is like a belief in God, it has to be taken on faith alone.