note for a new year

There is nothing like a new poem.


vow of silence

For us, Bob Kaufman, was an avatar of sorts—an incarnation of poetry, or perhaps more accurately, it’s most useful, impure form, complete with a sense of music and line that can be hard to find….He was so dedicated to poetry that he didn’t write it down; he was so much a poet that he committed a vow of silence for ten years, from Kennedy’s assassination to the end of the Vietnam War.

—Kevin Young, “Broken Giraffe: Bob Kaufman, the Song, and the Silence,” The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness (Graywolf Press, 2012)



For many poems it would be unnecessary to put them in an encrypted file.


better in prose

A poet who was doing something in poetry that could be better done in prose.


three markson notes

Leopardi came from a noble family and was educated by a private tutor. By the time Leopardi reached the age of twelve, his tutor resigned his position because he realized the boy’s learning was already greater than his own.

Nearly every morning of his life Paul Valéry wrote in a notebook—totaling 261 notebooks in the end. “Having dedicated those hours to the life of the mind, I earn the right to be stupid for the rest of the day.”

Delmore Schwartz stated that Moby Dick was not noticed at all for the first seventy years after it was published.

[After David Markson's not novels]


afraid it will end

One of those poems you could feel getting longer. A good long poem gets shorter; in fact, you’re afraid it will end.


sacred text

A personal anthology of favorite poems is like a sacred text.


line strikes

Sometimes a line of poetry strikes inside, hard, deep—down into that well we might as well call the soul.


relative fame

In the end no one is more famous than Anonymous.

cascading images

When the images come cascading down the page, some may lose their luster.


first door

When a poet has had a long career, like Philip Levine’s, it seems to matter what book/door you first entered. For me, when it comes to Levine, it’s The Names of the Lost.


ceremonial character

English poetry too has had its ceremonial words, different at different epochs; but the tendency in English poetry has been, at recurrent intervals, to make a furious attack upon them: to rout them out and throw them on the scrap-heap, so that poetry should heighten and irradiate the ordinary language of men. Nevertheless, the ceremonial character of poetry remains, and must remain. Even when it uses the commonest words, it does not speak commonly….One cannot read poetry as one glances over a paragraph in the newspaper; it does not, as it were, sit down to the tea-table with us. Though it comes home to us, like nothing else, though it tells of human joy and grief

     in widest commonalty spread,

it nevertheless requires a certain preparation of the mind, however unassuming. It is in the world, but not of the world.

Aubrey de Selincourt, On Reading Poetry (Phoenix House Ltd, 1952), 15-16

[The line “in widest commonalty spread,” is by Wordsworth. Aubrey de Selincourt quotes G. F. Bradley as saying: “Poetry is in the world, but not of the world.” I cannot identify G. F. Bradley at this time.]


predictable results

The use of unusual and novel poetic forms will produce obscure and ignorable poems.



A poem as clever as it was slight.


evidently confident

Judging from the number of workshops being offered, many writers evidently are confident that they can teach good writing.


engine for perception

Be on guard! Don’t let your language go slack and without purpose. Let it be an engine for perception, a testing ground for truth, and a finite lens to the infinite.

—Bert Meyers during a workshop, quoted by Maurya Simon in “Fire Undressed My Bones: Remembering Poet Bert Meyers,” Bert Meyers: On the Life and Work of an American Master, edited by Dana Levin and Adele Elise Williams (Unsung Masters Series, 2023)


closed nets

Poets are ignored or neglected for various reasons, and seldom is any kind active antipathy involved, rather, it’s just laziness on the part of critics and of readers unwilling to open wide their nets beyond what they already know.


winking at you

One of those linebreaks that’s winking at you…knows it’s oh so clever.


image of note: crows

Crows pass above like arguments with wings.

—David Pontrelli, from “Outpost,” Poems for Streets and People: 1991-2001 (Cold Mountain Press, 2023)

[Images/similes/metaphors that fuse the concrete and the abstract.]


oed till the end

I happen to own a full-sized set of the Oxford English Dictionary. It was given to me by my wife as a wedding present. Just wow. I don’t go to them as often in this digital age, but I will keep them to the end of my life. If I open my arms I could try to lift them, but the volumes end to end are near a yard wide, and each volume is a foot high, each volume a tome. Word tomb now? It would be like trying to lift sacred stone tablets. I’d be afraid they’d slip from my grip, break apart on the ground, words, words, words, spilling out.