sublime flights

There is a sheen upon his utterance like the morning dew upon a meadow before it has been sullied by human footfall. Never before Hölderlin or after him in German literature was poetry inspired to such sublime flights, far above the levels at which we ordinarily move. Everything is seen as by a soaring eagle, from the heights to which Hölderlin so ardently aspires. This is why the beings he depicts appear, as in dreams, to have shaken off the trammels of gravity, to have become bodiless spirits—for Hölderlin never learnt (this is at once his greatness and his limitation) to see the world as it is. He poetised about it; he never knew it.

—Stefan Zweig, “Hölderlin,” The Struggle with the Daemon (Pushkin Press, 2012), translated by Eden and Cedar Paul


embedded poem

Anthology concept: ‘poems’ drawn from works of fiction and prose.


warrant for the common reader

After banning many books, when they come to arrest the common reader, he will not hold up his hands, rather he will clutch the book he’s been reading to his chest in the hope it will stop a bullet.


bad prose or good poetry

A line that could be faulted in prose but would be thought of as a feature in a poem.


word house

Certain poems are the equivalent of shelter.


control of the output

One may not be able to control the reception of one’s work by the public, but one can make certain the output is sufficiently of interest that it ought to be recognized.


see anew

Poet, see anew what is known.


from an open window

The food does not always taste best in first-class restaurants. To me, art almost always speaks more forcefully when it appears in an imperfect, accidental, and fragmentary way, somehow just signaling its presence, allowing one to feel it through the ineptitude of the interpretation. I prefer the Chopin that reaches me in the street from an open window to the Chopin served in great style from the concert stage.

—Witold Gombrowicz (1904-1969), Diary (Yale U. Press, 2012), translated by Lillian Vallee


turn heads

The artist should develop a turn of mind that tends to turn things on their heads.


typical hiding place

A book is where one must read through 75 pages to find one poem.


subject to collapse

A line that undermines one’s sense of reality.


epic incapable

A long, long time ago...he admitted that he was epic incapable.


some markson anecdotes

Karl Barth’s surmise:
That while the angels may play only Bach in praising God, among themselves they play Mozart. (8)

Toil, envy, want, the patron, and the jail. Being Samuel Johnson’s précis of the poet’s life.
Despondency and madness, being Wordsworth’s summation of the end of same. (21)

I cannot endure to read a line of poetry; I have tried lately to read Shakespeare, and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me.
Says Darwin’s Autobiography. (25)

Verses of Propertius were found copied out on walls in Pompeii. (27)

The greatest lesbian poet since Sappho, Auden called Rilke. (34)

Pope offended so many people with the Dunciad that he subsequently never left home without pistols.
Or his Great Dane. (36)

A.E. Housman, on the surest source of poetic inspiration:
A pint, at luncheon. (47)

A good-natured man of principle.
Pablo Neruda called Stalin. (56)

A walk? What on earth for?
Asked Auden at someone’s country house. (79)

It is very difficult to understand and appreciate the generation that follows you, Matisse said. (96)

The poetical fame of Ausonius condemns the taste of his age, Gibbon said. (113)

In one of his less balanced periods, Robert Lowell penciled in some revisions in Milton’s Lycidas. And insisted he was the author of the entire poem. (119)

Wallace Stevens once worked briefly as a newspaper reporter. And was assigned to cover Stephen Crane’s funeral. (122)

Samuel Johnson, on criticism:
A fly, Sir, may sting a stately horse and make him wince, but one is but an insect, and the other is a horse still. (132)

—David Markson, This is Not a Novel (Counterpoint, 2001)


it's a small world

What is a Pushcart Prize? Is it some kind of insider self-congratulatory back-patting of the small press world?


false to experience

The more artifice the poem has, the more false it is to experience.


higher order

A command of rhetoric that rose to the level of imagery.


more than

Poet, aspire to more than a few published books and an academic post.


must be set aside

A poet must disregard poetics in the act of composition.


what is this

At first the reader didn’t recognize the text as a poem.


radio waves

There were unnoticeable rhythms in the poem, like the radio waves that pass through our bodies.


living color

In poetry, the description itself must happen.

—Wislawa Szymborska, How to Start Writing (and When to Stop) (New Directions, 2021), translated by Clare Cavanagh --


workshop of the three little pigs

When the wolf came upon the first poem he could see the lines were just straw. A half-inhale was all it took to blow away the poem. The second poem he came to was made of sticks, and with a great gust of breath he blew apart the poem. But the last poem he encountered was a stanza made of brick, and no matter how hard he tried to blow and blow, the brick box held.