7.28.2014

go at it like that

Like words gouged into stone with fingernails.

7.27.2014

slave labor language

Language easily becomes enslaved by falling into its habitual and customary means of expression. The poet breaks those word chains.

7.26.2014

everything mien

A poet who scoffs at the uncontainability of the cosmos.

7.25.2014

little pieces

A long poem that lives on by its excerpts.

7.24.2014

silent tribute

Cavafy was as reticent and decorous in conversation as he was outspoken in his poetry—some things, he said, needed art to make them beautiful. But it is related that if a beautiful face showed itself in his house, he paid it the silent tribute of lighting another candle.

—Robert Liddell, “Studies in Genius, VII – Cavafy,” Horizon, Vol XVIII, 105, 1948.

7.23.2014

ta-tum-ta-tum...

It takes more than regular meter to give a heartbeat to a poem.

7.22.2014

image machine

Perhaps the ascendance of the camera pushed painting to explore abstraction.

7.21.2014

poetry third

The secret of being a great poet lies in having an abiding interest in the world and in humankind, and not in one’s attention to poetry.

7.20.2014

obsessed or possessed

If only this poem would let me alone so that I might live.

7.18.2014

mind the gap

Recall that audio admonishment inside the London Underground, ‘Mind the gap’: A metaphor’s power is ‘the gap’; and the mind must leap that gap.

7.17.2014

embrace the anarchic

To make life...to create interest and vividness, it is necessary to break form, to distort pattern, to change the nature of our civilization. In order to create it is necessary to destroy; and the agent of destruction in society is the poet. I believe that the poet is necessarily an anarchist, and that he must oppose all organized conceptions of the State, not only those which we inherit from the past, but equally those which are imposed on people in the name of the future.

—Herbert Read, Poetry and Anarchism (Faber and Faber, 1938)

7.16.2014

broken box

A poem is a genre wrecking literary instrument.

7.15.2014

derived value

Perhaps the poem is a derivative product; its value pegged to human experience.

7.14.2014

executable file

It may show up attached as .doc or .pdf, but a poem is really an .exe file.

7.13.2014

ropes that rub

Paradox is apt to strike the poet as metaphor.

7.11.2014

cased the joint

He cased the poem thoroughly like a good critic always does.

7.10.2014

exploded world

Critics talking about ‘supertechnology’ and ‘the mediated eye’ in the seventies and eighties couldn’t know they were living in the Stone Age.

7.09.2014

subtleties of the game

Gradually, in what at first had been purely mechanical repetitions of the championship matches, an artistic, pleasurable understanding began to awaken in me. I learned to understand the subtleties of the game [chess], the tricks and ruses of attack and defense, I grasped the technique of thinking ahead, combination, counter-attack, and soon I could recognize the personal style of every grandmaster as infallibly from his own way of playing a game as you can identify a poet’s verses from only a few lines.

—Stephan Zweig, Chess (Penguin Mini Modern Classics, 2011: Copyright Stephan Zweig 1943; translation copyright by Anthea Bell, 2006)

7.04.2014

twenty-six tones

A whole alphabet of musical notes.

7.01.2014

numbing mumble

Academic speak lacking the least spark of insight.

6.30.2014

catching glories

10. Poetry catches the sheen and sound of glory in the here-and-now—in, between and among words, and between words and phenomena. That is to say, in the words themselves and also at all their borders and interfaces—with each other (when two); with one another (when more than two); and with the non-linguistic universe that is both ‘out there’ and ‘in here’, which is itself by definition not only the source of glory but also ineffable and speechless.

11. “Poetry catches…” This catching includes all senses and contexts of the English verb: (i) unwittingly, as one catches something contagious (e.g. laughing, yawning, a more or, unfortunately, a virus); (ii) whether by chance or conscious effort, as one catches something that is not necessarily obvious (e.g. a hint, a clue, an undertone, an implication, a suggestion, a purport, an intention, a meaning); (iii) deliberately, as one catches something thrown or dropped, before it lands elsewhere (e.g. a ball, a leaf); (iv) equally deliberately, as one catches a creature that one has been searching for or hunting (a lion, a fish, a butterfly); (v) or as one can be caught unawares (in a situation, by a memory), etc.

12. So catching glory or catching glories is not a bad definition of what poetry does. And is.

—Richard Berengarten, “On Poetry and Catching Glories,” Imagems 1 (Shearsman Books, 2013)

6.28.2014

fireworks

Perhaps the model of a good MFA program would be a kind of revolving hub, centered around a workshop set spinning with its aesthetic energy, generating critical friction, throwing off sparks—those MFA graduates who start their own creative fires across the cultural landscape.

6.26.2014

first art

The joy to think that our art originates in the era of the earliest human speech.

6.24.2014

uneasy relations

Translation is a negotiation between fidelity and the lust to know the other.

6.23.2014

to know by echo

Critics: Literary latecomers with all the answers.

6.22.2014

profligate pages

To publish prolifically is an act of disrespect toward the art of poetry.

6.20.2014

infallible test

In poetry, in which every line, every phrase, may pass the ordeal of deliberation and deliberate choice, it is possible, and barely possible, to attain that ultimatum which I have ventured to propose as the infallible test of a blameless style; namely: its untranslatableness in words of the same language without injury to the meaning.

—Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Biographia Literaria (1817), ch. 22

6.19.2014

fidget word

The one word that wouldn’t sit still in the poem.

6.18.2014

first forty-eight

In the first 24, in the first 48. Like the hours after a crime, these early words are so important to solving the poem.

6.17.2014

therefore iamb

When people asked if he was a formalist poet, he’d answer: “I amb.”

6.15.2014

more light

So often in a writer’s photo it’s a wan person holed up in a little room, hunched over a typewriter or keyboard, with a shelf of books where a window should be.

6.14.2014

big head

One of those titles that was smarter by half than the poem itself.

6.10.2014

revision resistant

The problem was that the poem couldn’t be improved upon.

6.09.2014

candy words

Nouns and verbs are sustenance. But ah, the confection of certain adjectives.

6.08.2014

in silence and solitude

Poetry and letters
Persist in silence and solitude.

—Tu Fu, "Night in the House by the River," translated by Kenneth Rexroth, One Hundred Poems from the Chinese (New Directions, 1956)

6.07.2014

team player

He was happy to be a minor member of a well-known group.

6.04.2014

stray strong

The line that strays is always the strongest one.

6.03.2014

go small

The image was symbolic when it needed to be specific.

6.02.2014

flavor and texture

To speak the poem would give mouthfuls of pleasure as though eating a fine meal.

5.31.2014

back and forth

The poem as the site of reciprocity between the impulse of emotion and the shaping force of language.

5.29.2014

are you ready yet

Some poems would engage you no matter when encountered; other poems must await that moment in your life that has opened you to them.

5.27.2014

unambiguous

And then I had always liked the old miracle and morality plays in which no word has any ambiguity at all. I don’t like ambiguity. I suppose it’s all right if the ambiguous things a work means are interesting and exciting, but often they’re not.

—Kenneth Koch, "A Conversation with Kenneth Koch," Field: Contemporary Poetry and Poetics, Number 7, Fall 1972.

5.24.2014

dignified literary death

His aspiration was to be the last person ever crushed by a bookcase having fallen on him.

5.23.2014

note totems

When scholarship becomes ritualistic practice, it’s all about getting the footnotes right.

5.19.2014

more about the dead

Critics so out of touch with the contemporary they just go on elaborating obituaries.

5.18.2014

operative emotion

Some enjoy American musicals with their transparent songs of love, joy and loss. Others prefer operas for, even as those foreign words wash over them on the level of sense, the sounds fill them with emotion.

5.17.2014

no way to say

There’s no word for that.

5.15.2014

brussels lace

     My work, whatever form it may take, is seen as mischief, as lawlessness, as an accident. But that’s how I like it, so I agree. I subscribe to it with both hands.
      It is a question of how you look at it. What I prize in the doughnut is the hole. But what about the dough of the doughnut? You can gobble up the doughnut, but the hole will still be there.
      Real work is Brussels lace, the main thing in it is what holds the pattern up: air, punctures, truancy.

—Osip Mandelstam, "Fourth Prose," The Noise of Time: Selected Prose (Northwestern Univ. Press, 1993), translated by Clarence Brown.

5.14.2014

word grist

Mouth and tongue, mortar and pestle: Break down the words into syllable and phoneme.

5.12.2014

in the service of art

Perhaps I’m less an artist, and more a servant of the art.

5.11.2014

wild one

Poet, when they go vogue, you go rogue.

5.09.2014

linear feet

A poet’s life measured in linear feet in the university library archive.

5.08.2014

believable beginning

Advice to the creative writer: Start with the credible.

5.07.2014

loose control

One of those studied tossed off poems.

5.05.2014

that poetry

4
That poetry remains a broad permission.

5
That poetry is a controlled vocabulary for what fails to come to market.

7
That poetry is open to faithless arguments.

14
That poetry is a wilderness prior to philosophy.

21
That poetry is endlessly establishing conditions for fair use.

27
That within the poem a coming to terms may also mean a refusal to concede.

29
That the poem will not suffer its camouflage.

32
That the ‘voice of the poet’ is essentially an argument.

[A selection from a grouping indexed as 'key: SUSPENDED JUDGMENTS']

—A Maxwell, Peeping Mot (Apogee Press, 2013)

5.04.2014

song gathers round

A song issues forth as sound waves: circles that widen outward so as to gather round, to draw close the far-flung members of the tribe.

5.03.2014

wait it out

You could try to write more poems or you could just wait, trusting that some good ones will well up.

5.01.2014

held time

The joy and sadness of an art like photography that arrests time.

4.30.2014

poem made of ideas

I enjoyed reading the poetry prompt and thinking of a poem that might come from it...one I'd never write.

4.29.2014

knowing more than one can say

As a critical writer, she feigned ignorance because sometimes that’s easier to admit than to accept one’s inability to articulate.