trainwreck artist

Did the poet really think that making his life a disaster would make him a great artist, or knowing that he was making a disaster of his life, did he justify his actions as being for the sake of his art?

[Thinking of John Berryman]


messed up lives

Investigating the lives of our literary gods we find they were as messed up as the Greek gods.


say when

Excess even in a short poem.


form finds a function

Free verse is individualistic: the entire poem is entirely up to you. Every aspect of it is your choice, your decision. You make it all. In a sense, every free verse poem reinvents the poem.
When you’re working in a strict form sometimes a certain magic takes place. You realize that the content is finding itself through the form. The form gives you your poem.

“Form follows function,” engineers say. Evidently it can go the other way round. Following form, you find function.

—Ursula Le Guin, “Form, Free Verse, Free Form: Some Thoughts,” afterword to Late in the Day: Poems 2010-2014 (PM Pres, 2015)


true surreal

The true surreal that is not meant to shock but to astonish.


articulate learning

In close reading or critical analysis of the poem what is learned comes from the articulation of one’s response to the piece.


generative entity

Ashbery as both Proteus and Proust.


reading is the event

Young poet, reading poetry is more important than poetry readings.


suspect speaker

Resist the default notion that the speaker of the poem is the self-same person as the name in the byline.


charge to poets

It’s the poet’s responsibility to learn the truth from the powerless.

—Grace Paley, “Of Poetry and Women and the World,” Just a Thought (FSG, 1998)


first or last

The first line of the poem should have been the last.


heretofore unseen

Whether by wonder or dismay, in that moment of first experiencing the art, no one would be able to recognize the artist’s accomplishment until much later.


not that close

His close reading of poems was ‘close’, in that it was inexact.


things carried along

Model for a poem: The wind along the street catches up leaves, bits of paper and other debris.


fuse public and private

Frank O’Hara’s great popularity surely has something to do with his ability to fuse public and private, to capture those moments of everyday life when we respond, overtly or just subliminally, to the “breaking news” of the day.

—Marjorie Perloff, on “Poem (Khrushchev is coming on the right day!),” The Difference is Spreading: Fifty Contemporary Poets on Fifty Poems (U. of Penn Press, 2022)


epigram for one book

The time I took
to make this book,
being both debut
and long review.


hard work

Art should be difficult to take up and equally hard to set aside.


whole not parts

A lyric retains its wholeness while a long poem is known by parts.


stands and stands

There will be poet challengers to certain canonical poets, but some of challenged poets will never be tilted or knocked off their pedestals.


no brand

I hope never to hear of a poet developing his/her brand.