7.25.2017

certain things

One thing is certain, and I have always known it—the joys of my life have nothing to do with age. They do not change. Flowers, the morning and evening light, music, poetry, silence, the goldfinches darting about….

—May Sarton, quoted in From May Sarton’s Well: Writings of May Sarton (Papier-Mache Press, 1994), selection and photographs by Edith Royce Schade. (p. 46) ==

7.24.2017

book of forms

All the world, things immense and small, things static and moving, are possible models for the poem.

7.23.2017

telling talk

The poem was rhetoric heavy.

7.22.2017

well-placed pin

Whenever the long poem started to sag, the poet had the good sense to pin it up with a lyric section.

7.21.2017

all the right words

The index of that book seemed like a word list for a great poem.

7.19.2017

inside the atom

We must be clear that when it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry. The poet, too, is not nearly so concerned with describing facts as with creating images and establishing mental connections.

Niels Bohr, in his first meeting with Werner Heisenberg in early summer 1920, quoted in Theorizing Modernism: Essays in Critical Theory (1993) by Steve Giles, p. 28.

7.18.2017

you're a superstar

Simon & Schuster’s book publicity states that Michael Robbins is a “superstar poet.” I did not know that.

7.17.2017

what it is

Given that we agree the poem is accessible, would that be the first attribute you’d mark it with?

7.16.2017

wait as they whet

One of those pauses during a writing workshop when in the background you could hear steel being sharpened on a grinding wheel.

7.15.2017

longer grave

The poet was 5’ 9” tall in his life. I’m told his archive, in the basement of the university library where it’s housed, measures 18 linear feet.

7.14.2017

staying grounded

Whatever their skills at language might be, poets should know how to plant and to tend a vegetable or a flower.

7.12.2017

when art appears

The most beautiful book would be that which would not be possible to consider as a book.

When art appears, life disappears.

To paint so as not to have to think any more pleases me, to think in order to paint is a piece of nonsense on the high tide of the spirit.

Gallery openings fill me with melancholy, the same goes for weddings and funerals.

Francis Picabia, Yes No: Poems & Sayings (Hanuman Books, 1990), translated by Rémy Hall

7.11.2017

revising aristotle

The poem’s drama was in its usage and not in its narrative elements.

7.09.2017

twain never met

No other metaphor before.

7.08.2017

new game

They invented a new way to play at poetry.

7.06.2017

dizzying universe

You have to read haphazardly, open and discover good books by happenstance these days. There are so many poets, so many books (planets), swimming into one’s ken (to steal a phrase from Keats).

7.05.2017

went by me

I don’t mind if I miss certain allusions as they sail past me without recognition as long as they ruffle a few brain cells as they pass.

7.04.2017

two poets

There are two masters, Antonio Machado and Juan Ramón Jiménez. The first lives on a pure plane of serenity and poetic perfection; a human and celestial poet who has already transcended every sort of struggle, the absolute master of his prodigious inner world. Jiménez is a great poet ravaged by the terrible exaltation of his “I,” lacerated by the reality around him, stung incredibly hard by insignificant things, his ears tuned to the world, which is the true enemy of his marvelous and unique poetic soul.

—Federico Garcia Lorca, “Conversation with Bagaría,” Deep Song and Other Prose (New Directions, 1975), edited and translated by Christopher Maurer.

7.03.2017

questionable choice

Asking the poet you once dated to write an epithalamium for your wedding

7.01.2017

royal road

If the interpretation of dreams is the via regia to the unconscious, then the interpretation of poems takes the same wondrous road to the unknowable.

6.30.2017

thin thing

Slide a poem under the door.

6.29.2017

no afterlife

Often the poems will die with the poet. And sometimes the poems go first.

6.28.2017

decibel level

No deep truth has ever been shouted.

—Juan Ramon Jiménez, The Complete Perfectionist: The Poetics of Work, translated and edited by Christopher Maurer (Doubleday, 1997), p. 150.

6.27.2017

four-legged audience

Being a poet, sometimes he found himself reading to empty chairs.

6.26.2017

author of itself

A poem should have the virulent integrity of Coriolanus.

6.25.2017

untouched by any other

An image so whole and complete unto itself, that it would forever ignore the attraction of metaphor.

6.24.2017

new worlds

After a youth spent leafing through thick dictionaries, after so many years of reading across various genres, how is it I’m still discovering new words? Which is to say new worlds, as though a telescope trained on deep space as the faintest and most distant of stars slowly become visible.

6.23.2017

last words

The last line was epitaph of the poem.

6.22.2017

fighting up

That lyric could lick almost any long poem.

6.21.2017

wood product

It has been speculated that the English word “book” in fact comes from the Anglo-Saxon word for beech (boc), the favored material from which the panels of tablets were fashioned.

—Matthew Battles, Library: An Unquiet History (Norton, 2003)

6.19.2017

of another language

When the words become foreign to me.

6.18.2017

too soon

The blood hadn’t dried and already the poet tried to memorialize the terrible event.

6.17.2017

long and strong

A long poem with the influence of the Old Testament.

6.15.2017

neither here nor there

The words are never where they're supposed to be.

6.11.2017

hit send

A post-mo email-quality epistle.

6.09.2017

no arbitrary boundary

He [Edgar Allan Poe] was so much against slavery that he had begun to include prose and poetry in the same book, so that there would be no arbitrary boundaries between them.

—Ishmael Reed (epigraph to Paul Metcalf’s Both, p378 in Collected Works, vol. II.)

[n.b.: Quote encountered while browsing a reading area in the Black Mountain College Museum + Art Center in Asheville, NC.]

6.04.2017

tell ail

Confessional poetry: Dire diary.

6.03.2017

thus said

A statement of taste spoken as though a truth statement.

6.02.2017

hard pressed

Oppression makes poets. In the land of perfect liberty songs are not pressed out of the heart.

Elia Peattie

6.01.2017

no turning away

He’d set out to write manifestly great poems: The dream of writing poems that upon first reading drew a devoted audience.

5.31.2017

quiet please

Silence is too important and shouldn’t be interrupted with trivial sounds.

5.30.2017

degree of difficulty

The poem was difficult in all the right ways.

5.28.2017

catbird seat

A critic secure being only a critic.

5.27.2017

some experience required

Thus the specific beauties of a poem may easily be lost to an unimaginative mind, as all the values of English poetry might so easily be lost to a world where men, intent upon their own active business, should come at last to employ “business English” as their sole linguistic medium, a medium more completely foreign to the language of Shelley or of Shakespeare than theirs to that of Catullus or of Homer. The beauties of poetry would still be those identical beauties, but these beauties would simply not occur to readers of the poets, were there any readers left, as upon the syllables and lines before them. And if these beauties remain what they are in essence, that is of little interest to a world in which they are effectively prevented from occurring. For they can not appear upon the face of experience even when men concern themselves to look upon the lines that could alone evoke them, unless men’s minds already hold the sensuous elements they would summon, and are capable of the imaginative response though which they must be recreated. If linguistic lore and stores of manuscripts and printed books may plausibly be said to preserve poetry itself, its beauties, even of sensuous imagery, can not so be kept in human experience. For their occurrence, minds are needed stored with the images that contemplation has engraved upon them, endowed with all the powers of imagination for reviving them as the poetry specifies, and as we shall further see, with all the possibilities of feeling and emotion that their beauties must also externalize, if they are to occur in their full intended character.

D. W. Prall, Aesthetic Judgment (Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1929)

5.26.2017

two kinds of new

An avant-garde that just is or an avant-garde that exists only as against tradition

5.25.2017

multiply simply

The poem was simple in a thousand ways.

5.24.2017

grown thoughtful

Older poets are prone to meditations.

5.23.2017

not this, not that...

If a poet flips through his/her book at a reading, that’s probably a bad sign. Shouldn’t almost any poem one turns to in the book be worth reading aloud?

5.22.2017

fortifications and formations

There are forms that are castles and those that are hordes.

5.20.2017

flying into himself

One quirk of his [Bill Knott's], which I saw several times, was what I called his "defensive rudeness." For example, someone would approach him and say something like, "I loved your book." And Bill would say, "Then you must have terrible taste in poetry." And turn on his heel, and walk away. In another situation, he replied to the same kind of comment with, "Uh, I'm not from around here, umm, umm, I don't know the streets," and turned away. Needless to say, the people on the other end of this kind of exchange looked as if they were slapped in the face. I remember berating him about this, a few times, and his response was a shrug. He simply did not know how to respond to anything positive.

[...]

In June 2015, Robert Fanning; Leigh Jajuga, a friend of Bill's and an assistant in his last years; Star Black, the poet and photographer, and a friend of Bill's; and I, buried Bill's ashes in Carson City, MI, his hometown. Robert had a small stone made. It says: "William Knott 1940-2014 / I Am Flying into Myself." The line is from a poem called "Death" in his first book:

      Going to sleep, I cross my hands on my chest.
      They will place my hands like this.
      It will look as though I am flying into myself.

—Tom Lux, "Bill Knott: Can My Voice Save My Throat," Knowing Knott: Essays on an American Poet (Tiger Bark Press, 2017), edited by Steven Huff.

[Note: The poet Tom Lux passed away shortly after he edited Bill Knott's posthumous selected poems, I Am Flying Into Myself (FSG, 2017).]

5.18.2017

style points

Style is the inevitable verbal residue of a significant writer. Real style cannot be shared or mimicked, it being the unique markings of that one writer.

5.17.2017

clearly sealed

A book of poems found in its original shrink wrap.

5.15.2017

escape poem

Who knows what poem will escape into the world and be known?

5.14.2017

five beats is all

Blank verse can make you believe in any line.

5.13.2017

price paid

The one price you pay for poetry is attention.

-+-

If you believe, as I do, that poetry is a part of the world's work—a human need—you don't feel time spent on poetry is idle. Poetry's not a luxury but a deep and permanent part of language making.

—Mary Ponsot, Knopf's Question-a-Poet Contest (April 2000)

5.11.2017

stuck here & there

After the critic got finished with the poem it was a pincushion of far-fetched associations.

5.10.2017

opposite directions

It was one of those I-go-this-way-you-go-that-way poems.

5.08.2017

pleasant company excluded

Don’t be that poet who writes only to please.

5.06.2017

difficult and rare

But all things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.

—Baruch Spinoza, Ethics (1677)

5.04.2017

stacked and racked

It was a poetry book with a high body count.