Why wait for the dust to settle? Here are 10 bullets from my end.


  1. De-racinated, “no root system,” a criticism Tony Hoagland makes regarding so much contemporary American poetry. Also, he notes our fiction is far less diversified than our poetry, in its many tribes.
  2. Don’t know who described Franz Wright as not a formal poet yet “the structure of his poems develop organically, driven by music, rhythm, and symmetry.” Not a bad model!
  3. For that matter, who wrote, “Their humor often depends on a single word: in fact the whole laugh can rest on a single word choice,” before quoting Mark Twain: “The difference between any word and the ‘right’ word is the difference between a lightning bug and the lightning.”
  4. TONE as the angle of sensibility toward the subject. Looking, too, for the fractional element – the bit that counters the previous.
  5. As far as the persona of the writer, think of that time before World War II and the larger-than-life characters who were largely self-created: the conductor Leopold Stokowski or movie star Cary Grant as examples who wound up as caricatures of themselves, or at least strangers. It was, after all, a Sol Hurok era. As for our own obsession with “celebrities” rather than “doers”?
  6. Czeslow Milosz: “The purpose of poetry is to remind us how difficult it is to remain just one person.”
  7. Denise Levertov corresponding with William Carlos Williams: “I have been honest in what I’ve written – but with what hypocrisy I have selected what I wrote!”
  8. To which Williams replied: “You know yourself better than anyone else can ever know you. … Perhaps you will never be able to say what you want to say … deep feeling that would reveal you in what may not want to be revealed … In that case, the loss will be great.”
  9. John Berryman: “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.”
  10. “And these bottles of wine, which we filled, were new; and, behold, they be rent: and these our garments and our shoes are become old by reason of the very long journey” (Joshua 9:13, KJV).


The Boston Public Library, left, faces Copley Square in Boston’s Back Bay. How many other landmarks, by the way, can you name that give honor to an American painter? At the right is the 1873 Venetian Gothic Revival style Old South Church. They are seen here from the steps of famed Trinity Church, whose shadow reaches across the green.


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