plain and floral

The book’s poems were rather plain, while the book’s blurbs were beyond florid.


slipped off the edge

Poems that veer away from major themes slip easily into oblivion.


poet again

Sometimes all I need to do is to think of those times when I first thought myself a poet, and I’m a poet again.


to see clearly

…the greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something, and tell what it saw in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see. To see clearly is poetry, prophecy and religion—all in one.

—John Ruskin, “Of Modern Landscape”


glories of analog

Makes me sad to think of the young poets who do all their writing on their phones. They will never know the notebook in all its analog glory.


vanity awards

The ‘International Book Awards’: Send us $74 and we’ll send you some stickers to put on the cover of your book. You have to pay for the stickers too.


ways to go wrong

There are many ways for a poem to go wrong, and in composition one would do well to follow all of them.


have you noticed

The quotes on the back of Poetry magazine are like bad Instagram poetry.


need to be

It’s a bad poem, but if you needed to write it, maybe it has worth.


wrenched diction

Lines that are wrenched suggest a powerful emotion has wrenched them, such as Hopkin’s, “My own heart let me more have pity on; let / Me live to my sad self hereafter kind”; but even the slightest displacement of customary acts or values will do it. For instance, “We once were in love, made love and kissed without a harmful history,” [Hardy] puts kissing after love and last in an amorous past blessed by brevity.

—William H. Gass, “The Aesthetic Structure of the Sentence,” Life Sentences: Literary Judgments and Accounts (Dalkey Archive Press, 2011)


lost & found

Yes, things are lost in the notebook—then things are discovered therein as if you hadn’t written them.


mind the gap

Public consciousness of poetry is bookended by the great themes and humorous ditties, little in between do they know.


water is fine

Not one to dally, Dickinson drops in quickly to her subject: I often think of the her dashes as those wooden docks jutting out into country ponds, where on summer days she may have desired to jump into the cool water.


strength in numbers

One of those times when the open mike readers bested the featured poet.


usual speech

Poet, read aloud the way you talk.


sentence v. line

This is why the sentences rather than the lines of poems are the primary focus of our attention: the function of language is the transmission of meaning, and we’ve attended to sentences as the life-giving instrument of meaning since infancy, long before we ever started reading poems. But language is also a system in which everything is connected to everything else—tout se tient, in de Saussure’s words—which is why the orchestration of sentences through the agency of lines may produce a unique kind of musical meaning that expands the meaning of sentences as they unfold.

—Michael Ryan, ‘Winter 2004’, from Table Talk: from The Threepenny Review (Counterpoint Press, 2015), edited by Wendy Lesser, Jennifer Zahrt, and Mimi Chubb.


on display

I noticed the poet had all his published books arrayed just so on the coffee table.


reading late

As a reader, late in life, it sometimes makes me sad that I hadn’t encountered a book twenty years before or, better would have been, by the age of twenty.


poets dread

The grammarians at the gate.


no need

Using a formal device does drive poems in different and unexpected directions, sometimes yielding a real discovery, but sometimes you just a write a poem that neither you nor the world needed.


good company

He scanned the litmag’s contents page to make certain he was in good company, and then closed the litmag and filed it away for his archives.