Romantic opium binges and fainting couches are all well and good but kids these days just don’t appreciate the late 19th century occultism aesthetic. Get some ceremonial robes, take up pipe-smoking and radical political views, wave some hyssop branches around and claim to have received revelation from mysterious higher beings. Transliterate your name into a Semitic language or sign all your letters with a mysterious Latin abbreviations; schism from your secret society to form a new, even more secret society! Paint a circle on your wealthy parent’s library floor and summon up spirits of indeterminate origin!

Sarah Taylor Gibson

To Sappho

January 26, 2020

No one will forget you again,
you with your large heart,
like the drum of the daughters,
like the hum of the mothers
as they create the sound
the world makes

All the church fathers
and all the puritans
and all the patriarchs
and all the witch hunters
couldn’t destroy you

Once there was a poet,
women told themselves
for centuries,
and she was female,
and she fell
into the ocean,
and she is falling always,
which is really
what flying is all about

Elizabeth Oakes

writing essentials

December 12, 2019

I can’t write poems anywhere but in my study. My desk usually has at least three book piles on it, but I was feeling claustrophobic so things are looking extra tidy (can’t work with desk clutter).

My writing essentials depend on the project. When I was writing A New Language for Falling Out of Love I required: whiskey, the hours between 4:30 pm and 6:30 pm, a colour-changing Jesus light, and a small selection of songs on repeat (can’t remember the songs anymore, but rest assured they were sad).

Even though Notes on the End of the World was my second publication, it was actually the first manuscript I wrote. The writing process for that one is a bit hazy, but I do remember there were a few songs on repeat: “No Quarter” by Led Zeppelin and “Eyes on Fire” by Blue Foundation (don’t judge me).

The poems in One God at a Time also had a specific repeating soundtrack (I find that repeating the same song over and over helps me chisel away at ideas), but required less alcohol (although alcohol is always welcome). I know I listened to The Leftovers soundtrack on a loop, as well as Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor.

Meghan Privitello
Seahorses, Gods, and taxidermy art – an interview with Meghan Privitello

Kidnap Poem

October 5, 2019

ever been kidnapped
by a poet
if i were a poet
i’d kidnap you
put you in my phrases and meter
you to jones beach
or maybe coney island
or maybe just to my house
lyric you in lilacs
dash you in the rain
blend into the beach
to complement my see
play the lyre for you
ode you with my love song
anything to win you
wrap you in the red Black green
show you off to mama
yeah if i were a poet i’d kid
nap you

Nikki Giovanni

assaulted by poetry

September 10, 2019

The task of being a poet is not completed at a fixed schedule. No one is a poet from eight to twelve and from two to six. Whoever is a poet is one always, and continually assaulted by poetry.

Jorge Luis Borges
Blindness
Trans. Eliot Weinberger

dancing rhythms

September 10, 2019

Tonight reality finally repudiated its margins, blurred into dream. We offered a libation to the moor, to the stones, to unknown Gods – to the deep night sky and the drunken poet who listens to the silence around him and the dancing rhythms of his own heart.

sexual phenomenon

June 14, 2019

Versification is as sexual a phenomenon as birdsong; it is typically male display, elaborated more to dishearten and drive off competition by other males than to seduce the oblivious female, whether she be an illiterate human or a foraging hen bird. The male display is sexual but it is not about having or doing sex; it seeks to elaborate a fundamentally banal and momentary interaction by artifice and invention. Once penetration has been achieved, silence falls – for bird and poet.

Germaine Greer
Phalluses and Fallacies
New Statesman 20th February 2014

Lost & found

May 25, 2019

Rilke warned young poets against large sweeping topics, since those are the most difficult and demand great artistic maturity. He counselled them to write about what they see around them, how they live each day, what’s been lost, what’s been found. He encouraged them to bring the things that surround us into their art, images from dreams, remembered objects. ‘If daily life seems impoverished to you,’ he wrote, ‘don’t blame life. You yourself are to blame. You’re just not enough of a poet to perceive its wealth.’ This advice may seem mundane and dim-witted to you. This is why we called to our defence one of the most esoteric poets in world literature — and just see how he praised so-called ordinary things!

Wislawa Szymborska
Letter to Michal in Nowy Targ
Literary Life
Trans. Clare Cavanagh

something we once knew

March 28, 2019

It was language I loved, not meaning. I liked poetry better when I wasn’t sure what it meant. Eliot has said that the meaning of the poem is provided to keep the mind busy while the poem gets on with its work — like the bone thrown to the dog by the robber so he can get on with his work…Is beauty a reminder of something we once knew, with poetry one of its vehicles? Does it give us a brief vision of that ‘rarely glimpsed bright face behind / the apparency of things’? Here, I suppose,  we ought to try the impossible task of defining poetry. No one definition will do. But I must admit to a liking for the words of Thomas Fuller, who said: ‘Poetry is a dangerous honey. I advise thee only to taste it with the Tip of thy finger and not to live upon it.  If thou do’st, it will disorder thy Head and give thee dangerous Vertigos.

P.K. Page
The Filled Pen: Selected Non-Fiction

door to the temple

March 13, 2019

I could not be a poet without the natural world. Someone else could. But not me. For me the door to the woods is the door to the temple.

Mary Oliver
Upstream: Selected Essays