weave for whatever it is

Find a language pattern that matters to the poem’s content.


no through-cut

For him the thesis never came easily.


through the side door

Frost entered the Modern canon through the farmhouse’s side door, with the nineteenth century’s snow still on his boots, bringing in a load of firewood for the stove.


rosebud image

Looking for his ‘Rosebud’ image: the thing that would flash upon one’s mind in the moment before death.


images floating by

Images as flotsam of the oceanic mind.


useless objects

When Arp writes of a “bladeless knife from which a handle is missing,” when Norge speaks of a “time when the onion used to make people laugh,” we have images, configurations, which employ archetypal elements but are not properly speaking archetypes. Instead, we have the emergence of entities which only by the force of utterance and the upheaval they cause in the imagination and thought acquire existence and even reality. These “useless objects” have a strange authority. Even as visionary acts, they consist of particulars and thus curiously provide us with a semblance of actual experience.

—Charles Simic, “Negative Capability and its Children,” Poetics: Essays on the Art of Poetry (Tendril, 1984), edited by Paul Mariani and George Murphy


gull line

You can ask for no better line than a gull cutting across the horizon near dusk.


was a tank

The poem was a tank...it was self-contained and could not be stopped.


waste no word

 Poet, waste no word or thus lessen the thrust of the line.


marble face

Each letter set like in piton in the marble face of the page.


function, structure and design.

The Roman architect Vitruvius suggested that buildings can be judged according to their utilitas, firmitas, and venustas, that is, according to their fitness for their purpose, their structural soundness, and their beauty; or, in Richard Krautheimer’s version, their function, structure, and design.

—Sylvan Barnet, A Short Guide to Writing about Art, (HarperCollins, 1989)

[The same criteria could be applied to a good poem.]


stance against subject

By style one finds the stance necessary to confront the subject.


that poem that

That poem that does that. You’ll know it when you hear/read it.


load-bearing line

A line must bear the weight of the one or many above it.


go for a walk

Paul Klee’s suggestion to ‘go for a walk with a line’, applies to poetry as well.


rhyme made me do it

Another insipid turn of phrase brought forth by making a rhyme.


music of thought

The music of a poem can come from its thoughts.


claw marks

Every poem shall be a tearing up of a poem,
not a poem, but claw marks.

—Edith Södergran (1892-1923), ending of the poem “Decision,” translated by Malena Mörling and Jonas Ellerström, The Star By My Head: Poets from Sweden (Milkweed Editions and The Poetry Foundation, 2013).


life index

A poem that was the index to your existence.


experience everlasting

The first time you read the poem you knew you’d encountered an inexhaustible resource.