no return

As with Heraclitus’ famous remark, ‘You cannot enter the same poem twice’.


no quibble here

To find something to quibble about is not the object of a poetry workshop.


no exit

The poem as a maze without an exit.


higher order word

The word finds its apotheosis in a sentence.


path of the sentence

A path made of irregular stone slabs snakes its way around the full length of the imperial villa of Katsura. As opposed to the other gardens in Kyoto made for static contemplation, here inner harmony is reached by following the path step by step and reviewing each image that your site perceives. If elsewhere a path is only a means to an end and it is the places it leads to that speak to the mind, here the footpath is the raison d’etre of the garden, the main theme of its discourse, the sentence that gives meaning to every word.

—Italo Calvino, “The Thousand Gardens,” Collection of Sand (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013), translated by Martin McLaughlin


writing and not finding

So many poems feel like someone writing and writing more lines, trying to find something.


old warriors

Time turns the avant garde into the old guard.


not wrong about suffering

After walking through dozens of grand galleries in a major European museum, in my mind arose a different sense to Auden’s line, “About suffering they were never wrong, / The old Masters.”


offer to redirect

In the poetry workshop model the poet whose poem has been critiqued should be allowed a few minutes toward the end of the session to ‘redirect’ the commentary should s/he feel that the group missed some important aspect of the poem.


no high claims

Poetry needs no high claims because it’s poetry and that is enough.


knotted lines

These fibres call to mind the pieces of rope used by the Maori and mentioned by Victor Segalen in his novel Les Immémoriaux (A Lapse of Memory): the Polynesian bards or narrators would recite their poems by heart, with the aid of interwoven strings, the knots of which were counted between their fingers to mark off the episodes of their narrative. It is not clear what correspondence they established between the succession of names and deeds of heroes and ancestors on the one hand and the knots of different size and shape placed at different intervals along the strings on the other; but certainly the bunch of threads was an indispensable aide-memoire, a way of making the text permanent before any form of writing.

—Italo Calvino, “Say It with Knots,” Collection of Sand (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013), translated by Martin McLaughlin


on two wheels

Should one hesitate at the end of the line or make the turn on two wheels.


music box

The poem as music box.


make it stop

And the calliope played on: Kalliope, the muse of epic poetry.


save a life

Poetry can save one’s life, and it need not be from trauma; it may be as simple as opening one to the world through language.


one and done

There is art you are grateful to have experienced but wouldn’t want to own. There are poems you’re grateful to have read but wouldn’t read again.


poem in mind

In the mind the poem has its essence before the first word is written.


alt aesthetic

Not everyone need accept your aesthetic.

six-hundred coffee-houses

The Viennese café was the quintessential meeting place of the city, a well-upholstered extension of the public sphere. As one historian of this era writes, the Viennese café ‘was an institution of a special kind…a sort of democratic club, for discussion, writing and playing cards’. There were about 600 of these coffee-houses in the imperial capital in 1900. Some Viennese conducted most of their work in cafés, often alternating between two or three favorites in a day. One businessman was said to have had his hours printed on his cards thus:

          From 2 to 4 o’clock — Café Landtmann
          From 4 to 5 o’clock — Café Rebhuhn
          From 5 to 6 o’clock — Café Herrenhof

—Richard Cockett, Vienna: How the City of Ideas Created the Modern World (Yale U Press, 2023) p 15