A line that was a dark alley. A line that was a hairpin turn. A line that was a blind curve. A line that was an on-ramp. A line that was a work zone. A line that was the last exit before the toll. A line that stretched to a vanishing point. A line that was a dead end.


no owner

The poem was published as “Anonymous” because no one would own up to it.


like jenga

A poem like Jenga in which taking away a single line could result in sudden collapse.


heavily adorned

An image encrusted poem.


pure and radiant disaster

But opposing and complementary aspects are never as distinct as one might believe. Whether they are medieval or almost contemporary, the vanquished and the suicides whom Ivan Morris depicts for us are distinguished from their Occidental counterparts by a specifically Japanese characteristic: the poetic contemplation of nature at the moment of death. Whether it is the melancholy Prince Yamato Takeru of the fourth century A.D. or Ōnishi in 1945 or the Saigō, champion of oppressed peasants in the nineteenth century, they all die with poetic refinement.

      O lone pine tree!
      O my brother!

sighs in death Prince Yamato Takeru, who had been sent to perish in yet unconquered regions on a desolate plain at the foot of a mountain by his father the emperor, who employed this classic method to get rid of a son who had become an encumbrance.


In the twentieth century, the young kamikazes, the pilots of suicide planes, also bade a poetic farewell to life before taking off with no chance of return. Thus, in 1945, a twenty-two-year-old pilot:

      If only we might fall
      Like cherry blossoms in the Spring—
      So pure and radiant!

Margeurite Yourcenar, “The Nobility of Failure,” That Might Sculptor, Time (FSG, 1992), translation by Walter Kaiser.

[This essay deals with Japanese history and culture in books by Ivan Morris, including his work entitled The Nobility of Failure, as well as the novels of Yukio Mishima.]


epic fail

It was said to be an epic but no one could quote a single line from it.


made shift

He made shift with language, because what else can a writer do.


Ibid, ibid again

There were so many instances of ‘Ibid’ in his footnotes, I thought the author might be someone who frequented auctions.


through or over

One must read through or over the antique poetic diction.


all seen and all said

Poem of an omniscient narrator versus a poem of an overknowledgeable orator.


you walk out

Studio Ghosts

When you’re in the studio painting, there are a lot of people in there with you. Your teachers, friends, painters from history, critics…and one by one, if you’re really painting, they walk out. And if you’re really painting, you walk out.
                  --From a talk with Philip Guston

Audrey Flack, Art & Soul: Notes on Creating (ARKANA/Penguin Group, 1986)


poem as sphere

The lines seem to reconfigure into latitudes and longitudes, making a world.


in another direction

The poem was not derivative but rather dérive-ative.


trust factor

He trusted images more than metaphors.



A poem top-heavy with its best lines; toppling before its close.


poetry stretches

Again and again, poetry stretches words until and so that we are forced to look afresh at them, and by the same token at the concepts, experiences and attitudes behind them. The poet Randall Jarrell quotes Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: ‘The author whom a lexicon can keep up with is worth nothing.’

—James Camien McGuiggan, Meaning beyond definition, Aeon (online) 3 April 2023


believe in

Believe in the poem, if not in poetry.


accidental editor

The publisher mangles a line, misses a word, or drops a whole passage—still, is it better or worse?—and somehow it comes out whole.


playing against archetype

Look for the exception to the archetype.


poets and panhandlers

The dilemma of paying poets for their poems is it's like giving money to panhandlers: you want to help but you don’t want to encourage them.


too distilled

Tanka and haiku may be so distilled to their essential images that they lose all meaning, becoming refined observation without implication.