On first listening to Dylan, and the poem that followed.


Oh, Bob Dylan. Where to begin? The great artistic love of my life, my musical paramour. My cohort. The guide to all of those heart-wrenching songs I’d cleanly tear out of me with such regularity, with such ease, under the counsel of those implicit directives. My companion ever since I stumbled upon him on that fateful July day in Israel.

Bob Dylan discovering a cavity, circa 1966.

I remember it well. It was the summer of 2004. I was in Israel for six weeks on Mach Hach Ba’Aretz, which was in essence a continuation of the urgent Zionism the B’nei Akiva youth movement stressed in their summer camp in Pennsylvania, the main difference being that this one was on the actual land they’d extol with such ferocity. It was only about a week into the trip and I was already miserable. My so-called friends who I’d been relying upon…

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My favorite bit: “it’s a strange, primal kind of magic, the way sound and rhythm turns words into not-quite-music but not-quite-just-words anymore”

Beak & Wave

When was the last time you read Wallace Stevens’ “The Noble Rider and the Sound of Words?” If the answer is “not recently,” or (worse!) “never”, get thee to a library or your preferred book retailer (or the one that will send you stuff in two days?) and fix it! Fix it fix it fix it! 

For me, sound is the deal-breaker in poetry, as it seems to have been for Stevens (“…above all else, poetry is words; and that words, above all else, are, in poetry, sounds”):

The deepening need for words to express our thoughts and feelings which, we are sure, are all the truth that we shall ever experience, having no illusions, makes us listen to words when we hear them, loving them and feeling them, makes us search the sound of them, for a finality, a perfection, an unalterable vibration, which is only within the…

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Three from HTMLGIANT

  1. “Moves in Contemporary Poetry” by Mike Young (and Elisa Gabbert)
  2. “Watching, owning, looking at, listening to, thinking about, and at last finally reading Solaris by AD Jameson
  3. “Expired Domain Girl” by Jimmy Chen



the end-stopped line

I’ve noticed a number of searches on caesuras, enjambment and end-stopped lines.

Fortunately, these are easy to recognize. When English poets first began writing blank verse (unrhymed Iambic Pentameter) one gets the feeling they had their hands full just counting syllables. Their efforts were stiff, wooden, inflexible. The example I always like to use is Gorboduc, by Thomas Norton andThomas Sackville. The play was written in 1561, 3 years before Shakespeare’s birth. For all its limitations, the play was the first (as far as we know) to have been written using blank verse and stands as a template for all the great verse plays to follow, including Shakespeare’s. Two features that make the verse feel wooden, by modern standards, is the strict Iambic beat on one hand (there are practically no variant feet) and the heavily end-stopped lines. End-stopped lines simply means that ones thought ends…

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The Spoils: April 2012

To celebrate National Poetry Month, I bought one book. That would be sad if that one book wasn’t:

the cover of Timothy Donnelly’s debut collection

It’s a great book though, even if I’m beginning to realize that I can’t read Timothy Donnelly‘s poetry straight through unlike, say, Graham Foust, John Beer, and Michael Robbins.

Anyway, Donnelly has gotten a lot of buzz, especially since the release of his second collection The Cloud Corporation a couple of years ago, so I’ll just link to an interview where he talks about what it was like “before he was famous” and this link has one poem and a short piece on what one might call his poetics, at least circa 2003, when Twenty-seven Props… was released.