Poetry is the lonely, radical, precious expression of a single life. The singularity of the unique human soul who must cry out. Because of love, because of wounds, because of injustice, because of hunger, because of exile and migration, because of dispossession of every kind, because we have lost someone we love and cannot bear that loss, because night comes on and we are alone.

Anne Michaels
Infinite Gradation

It is not the purpose and certainly not the magic of poetry to speak about the thing (information), but rather to speak the thing, to perform the impossible task of making the absent present — palpably, tangibly present.

B.H. Fairchild
A Midwestern Poetics
New Letters (vol.78, no.1,Fall 2011)

love letters

June 22, 2019

Write me love letters with your fingernails on my back, and I’ll write poetry with my tongue between your legs..

I love all poetry

June 22, 2019

I have read your poems with my door locked late at night and I have read them on the seashore where I could look all round me and see no more sign of human life than the ships out at sea: and here I often found myself waking up from a reverie with the book open before me. I love all poetry, and high generous thoughts make the tears rush to my eyes, but sometimes a word or a phrase of yours takes me away from the world around me and places me in an ideal land surrounded by realities more than any poem I ever read.

Bram Stoker
Letter to Walt Whitman February 1872

trying to write

June 20, 2019

You should always be trying to write a poem you are unable to write, a poem you lack the technique, the language, the courage to achieve. Otherwise you’re merely imitating yourself, going nowhere, because that’s always easiest.

John Berryman
Why I’m the poet I’ve become: John Berryman and the lucky thirteen
Article by Philip Levine in New York Times 26th December 1993

You cannot write alone, no more than you can be alone inside your own poems. The muse is not only,  in contemporary vernacular, an inspirit but a facilitator…the acknowledged or unacknowledged antagonist… the opposition that creates the energy and story of the poem…the need and the means. It provides the imagination with context, and when all is said and done, the text itself. The freeness of our trees, the birdies of our birds, the pity of our forgiveness, the beauty of our longing, our paralysis, our prevarications, our palaver, all may saturate the colours and textures of our poems, but they are masks over the singular face of the archetype.

Stanley Plumly
Autobiography and Archetrype,

like a long love affair

April 16, 2019

Translating most or all of a poet’s work is more like a long love affair than anything else. If we’re poets ourselves, and write our own poetry, our own work is more or less a marriage: “for better or for worse.” And there doesn’t seem to be any court that anybody knows about that can divorce us. So a long term commitment to another poet has to fit somewhere, has to be scheduled at odd hours and on odd days, always a bit clandestine, compared with the primary relationship. And, like so many long love affairs, these relationships often start as flirtations.

Edward Smallfield

Translating Jaime Gil de Biedma: Process and problems

writing poetry

April 13, 2019

When writing poetry one is always assisted and even carried away by the rhythm of all things outside, for the lyric cadence is that of nature: of the waters, the wind, the night. But in order to shape prose rhythmically, one has to immerse oneself deeply within oneself and detect the blood’s anonymous, multivaried rhythm. Prose is to be built like a cathedral: there one is truly without name, without ambition, without help: up in the scaffolding, alone with one’s conscience.

Rainer Maria Rilke

The Poet’s Guide to Life: The Wisdom of Rilke

 trans. Ulrich Baer

Poetry

April 9, 2019

Poetry is not just relief; poetry is tension. Poetry is departure. Poetry is return. Poetry is memory.

Emily Jungmin Yoon, 

A Cruelty Special to Our Species

an intimacy going

April 6, 2019

Every work has a shape. I work in a lot of different kinds of forms and a lot of the poems are long. I’m aware of using musical forms. I’m quite influenced by the symphonic form, for example, the sonata form. But I feel it’s really necessary to make as much of the formal construction of it as I can obvious and at the same time there’s an intimacy going on that has to do with the use of the human voice and the fact that one is talking to others and there’s the possibility of having some sort of enormous performance thing happen, as if performing a play.

Alice Notley

Seeing the future: a conversation with Alice Notley