Showing posts from February, 2012

The Poet and the Copy-Writer

Osric, a poetOswald, an advertising man
Osric: My hair is falling out, and no one reads my poems.
Oswald: My liver is bad, and everyone reads my ads.
Osric: Alas, I am marginal to the economy.
Oswald: Alas, I am central to the economy.
Osric: Of course, you had to sell your soul.
Oswald: And you were unable to sell yours; perhaps I could write you an ad?
- Nemerov

Alcohol Inks on Yupo

I'm so self-involved I forgot to ask myself how I was this morning.

Appoggiatura, Adele, and Don Paterson

Appoggiatura is a musical term which metrical poets may not be familiar with, but make use of all the time. I would equate it loosely with the elision, though I have tended to call it the rhythmic element of surprise, or the de-emphasis, or the emotion's edge. But appoggiatura is a much more beautiful expression, and I'm always happy when poets borrow from music, the sister art, when describing the tools of the trade. It's defined as a vocal dip, change, or grace note, often discordant or unexpected: an ornament consisting of a nonharmonic note (short or long), preceding a harmonic one either before or on the stress. It comes to us from the Latin, to lean (into the next note). The Oxford Companion to Music describes the use of the appoggiatura as such: ‘ is as important both melodically and harmocially as the note on which it leans, from which it takes normally half the time-value ...its exact interpretation varies greatly in different periods and contexts; but it…

Dreaming Spring


Thou Eunoch of Language

1791, Rabbie Burns responds to one of his critics:

Dear Sir:

Thou eunuch of language; thou Englishman, who never was south the Tweed; thou servile echo of fashionable barbarisms; thou quack, vending the nostrums of empirical elocution; thou marriage-maker between vowels and consonants, on the Gretna-green of caprice; thou cobler, botching the flimsy socks of bombast oratory; thou blacksmith, hammering the rivets of absurdity; thou butcher, embruing thy hands in the bowels of orthography; thou arch-heretic in pronunciation; thou pitch-pipe of affected emphasis; thou carpenter, mortising the awkward joints of jarring sentences; thou squeaking dissonance of cadence; thou pimp of gender; thou Lyon Herald to silly etymology; thou antipode of grammar; thou executioner of construction; thou brood of the speech-distracting builders of the Tower of Babel; thou lingual confusion worse confounded; thou scape-gallows from the land of syntax; thou scavenger of mood and tense; thou murderous accouche…
Don’t listen to what a person calls him- or herself; listen to what is said when the guards are down. And the proof is always in the poems, because if your guards aren’t down when you go to that necessary place, then you were lying before you even started.
- Reginald Dwayne Betts

Maurice Sendak on Colbert

Small poem of mine in the current issue of Poetry:


Rest in peace, Wislawa Szymborska.
Wislawa on How to and How Not to