top of page

Listen to Me or Any Other Poet[1]

The Author Chooses Bright Shards of Potential[2]

The Painstaking Assembly of Meaning from Fragments[3]

Fragments of a Tradition which is itself a Mosaic Wrought from Crushed Ruins[4]

Fragments of the Literature of the Past Survive here and there, Imperfectly Censored[5]

I am like the man who takes a Brick to show how Beautiful his House used once to be[6]

Literary Movements survive primarily in the Ruins of the Texts they leave behind,

Rather than in the Unified Literary Histories that we create for them After the fact[7]

Shards for others to Reassemble into Mirrors Reflecting their Images over ours[8]

All Fragments that Remain Remind us: Give Thanks, Gather Praise[9]

Scraps of Broken Poetic DNA Snapped from their Context

And their Original Intentions, can Still Fizz and Provoke[10]


Every Song is an Echo[11]

Is Someone Somewhere Saying my Words?[12]

Lend to the Rhyme of the Poet the Beauty of thy Voice[13]

By the Incantation of this verse, Scatter, as from an Unextin-

Guished Hearth Ashes and Sparks, my Words among Mankind[14]

I have Listened and am not certain what can be done – except to Tell, over and over, to Tell[15]

It is Fair to hear Words of the Ancient Speech from the Lips of other Wanderers[16]

When you Listen to some Statement – you Hear it as an Echo of Yourself[17]

Taste the Syllables and Imagine them on the Tongues of Others[18]

We Recognize each other only in Echoes[19]

The Earth Echoes where I Walk[20]


Pilfered from – and Improved[21]

I Collect Words where I Find them[22]

I’m not really a Writer at all – I’m a Thief[23]

As if my whole Vocation is endless Imitation[24]

I have Testified to Adoration with the Advertisement of Imitation[25]

Immature Poets Imitate – Mature Poets Steal – Bad poets Deface what they take,

And Good poets make something Better – the good poet Welds his Theft into a

Whole of Feeling which is Unique, utterly Different from that which it is Torn[26]

Stop worrying about what’s “Good” and what’s “Bad” – there’s

Only stuff Worth Stealing, and stuff that’s Not worth stealing[27]

My Best Words come Farthest from Myself[28]

Here: Take my Hands – Speak with them[29]

I Sing all the way up into Your Throat[30]


My Pen is Chained to Footnotes[31]

Wisdom is Quoted, Requoted – and Quoted again[32]

What I want to Say comes in Ready-Made Phrases[33]

As if I’ve Forgotten Nothing – and Everything I’ve

Ever known is Available Immediately for Reference[34]

A Pen that Shifts Words and Fragments of sentences from

One Line to Another – with Insertions and Cross-References[35]

Quoting with a good-natured grin a Crushing Line from some Great Authority[36]

You sound as if you are Quoting something all the time[37]

These Selected Texts/Quotes to which Others could be

Added are a Progressive means of Self-Identification[38]

Revel in Quotations – and Yoke them Strategically[39]

Originality is Depth and Breadth of Sources[40]


Reading Ghost-Talk on their Lips[41]

Words Survive the Dissolution of the Body[42]

There are many Ghosts in this Poem – I’m One[43]

Bards of Passion and of Mirth, Ye have Left your Souls on Earth[44]

The Souls of the Present and the Departed Mingle, like Guests at the

Same Party – it makes Life less Determinate and Death less Conclusive[45]

They Live now in your Gaze, Sustain them with your Eyes, your Words – that they’re not Lost[46]

I used to think that a Dead Person’s Words Die with them –

Now I know they Scatter, looking for Meaning to Attach to[47]

Poems Rise out of the Earth and Stand Up in Someone[48]

Poets Make these Words – and if they’re made Well,

They last Longer than the Bodies that Made them[49]

I Speak with the Implacability of the Dead Poet[50]


Breathe the Air that the Masters Breathed[51]

In every work of Genius we Recognize our own Rejected

Thoughts: they return to us with a certain Alienated Majesty[52]

The at present Unutterable Things – we Find somewhere Uttered[53]

The Reading of these Documents enables me to Utter my Thoughts[54]

Around me I Behold Where’er these Casual Eyes are Cast, the Mighty Minds of Old[55]

These words Echo in our Ears as if Heard for the First Time, yet are not

Entirely Strange – our Hearts must have known them in Another Life[56]

The Coincidence of my Feelings and Somebody Else’s Words

Or the Peculiarity of my Feelings as Released by their Words[57]

We’re Living in the Results of Others’ Imaginations[58]

We all Owe Everything to those who Preceded Us[59]

The Tradition Pools on our Tongues[60]


Improve Yourself by Others’ Writings so that you

Shall Gain Easily what Others have Labored Hard For[61]

Select Widely and then Pick out that which is Excellent to Follow[62]

You’ll Learn from Them, if you want to – just as Someday, if you

Have Something to Offer, someone will Learn something from You[63]

It is no more that the Duty of him who Achieves Greatness, to Leave

Behind him, in his Ascent, such Landmarks as Guide Others to be Great[64]

If You were not there yourself – you must have Heard it from Someone who Was[65]

All of us would like to have been Born Infallible, but since we know we Weren’t it’s

Better to attend to those who speak in Honesty and Good Faith, and Learn from them[66]

He who Knows the Oldest and the Best – Becomes himself the Oldest and the Best[67]

For Occupation – this: the Spreading Wide my Narrow Hands to Gather Paradise[68]

Voices of Today grow Lovely Speaking of Wisdom Past[69]

Not to Answer our Deepest Questions, but to Make

Available to us Answers that Others have Given[70]


I Prize what you Wrote and Meet you in what I Write[71]

To Experience One’s own Mind Dancing with Another’s[72]

The Transmission from Mind to Mind, Cherishing Pulsating, Living Truth[73]

That Small Piece of your Poetry Blazes suddenly – like a Purple Blossom in my Mouth[74]

Taking Fire from Another and Reendowing that which has Enkindled it with a still Fiercer Flame[75]

We become fully Human as we Learn from those who have Lived Before us, and we are most

Completely part of the Human Odyssey as we Pass Information on to those who Follow us[76]

That They to Future Ages may be Known – not Copies Drawn, but Issue of thy Own[77]

Their Antique Pen would have Express’d even such a Beauty as you Master now,

So all their Praises are but Prophesies of this our Time – All you Prefiguring[78]

The Next Generation will be Better than Ours, but We shall

Be the Ones who made that Better Generation Possible[79]

I Need Them only for my own Use and Guidance Un-

Til I have done Something for Myself by their Light[80]


If Any man will come After me – Let him Deny Himself[81]

No One’s Mouth is Big Enough to Utter the Whole Thing[82]

Together we’ll Accomplish a Work the Fame of which will Never Die[83]

If Poetry Speaks of its own Immortality, the claim is more Far Reaching

Than that of the Genius of a particular Poet in a particular Cultural History[84]

Research has Shown that Ballads were Produced by all of Society Working as a Team[85]

The Old, oft-Quoted Story: how as you work, the room is full of other Artists, but as you

Keep at it, one by one, they all Leave, and then the work is You – Nonsense: Nobody Leaves[86]

The Purpose of Poetry is to Remind us how Difficult it is to Remain just One Person[87]

Poems are written Collaboratively in the Original version and also by Re-writers

Of Subsequent Generations, usually Anonymous … Small value is Placed on

Preserving a “True” Text, since the Work is seen as an Ongoing Process[88]

Masterpieces are not Single and Solitary Births – they are the Outcome

Of many Years Thinking in Common, of Thinking by the Body of the

People, so that the Experience of the Mass is Behind the single Voice[89]

The Poet has Ten Thousand Centers – thus is Virtually Centerless[90]


I the Heir of All the Ages – in the Foremost Files of Time[91]

There Wants yet the Master-Work: the End of All yet Done[92]

The Generations Gathering – our Good Times Reaching One Best of All[93]

If we may never Know it, what does it matter? – Others will See it After us[94]

O Blessed Letters, that Combine in One All Ages Past, and Make One Live with All[95]

I Reject None, Accept All, then Reproduce All in my own Forms … Poems Distill’d from Poems[96]

When any Single Thought Emerges into Consciousness I Cannot Rest until it is Brought

Into Harmony with the Remainder … Every Isolation is an Abnormality, an Untruth –

Truth is a Whole Thought World Characterized by Complete Inner Harmony[97]

Patching Together my Every Image in your Universe of Perception[98]

The Wise as on they Journey Treasure Every Fragment Clear,

Fit them as they may Together, Imaging the Shattered Sphere[99]

One Element is Missing: the Power needed to Transfigure

These Motley Shreds of Reality into a Gorgeous Palace[100]

[1] Philip Whalen, Minor Moralia

[2] Shauna Osborn, Panic Stricken Uncertainties & the Business of Writing

[3] Christina Olson, A Story About Bones

[4] George Eliot, Middlemarch

[5] George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

[6] Bertolt Brecht, Motto

[7] Peter Gizzi, Process Statement of Ode: Salute to the New York School

[8] Mahmoud Darwish tr. Amira El-Zein, The Owl’s Night

[9] Bell Hooks, Appalachian Elegy 20

[10] Gregory Maguire, Sugarplums

[11] Elizabeth Johnston Ambrose, Father Song

[12] So Chong-Ju tr. David R. McKann, A Sneeze

[13] Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Day is Done

[14] Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ode to the West Wind

[15] Susan Griffin, Torture

[16] J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

[17] Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

[18] Foster Noone, Fostering

[19] Donika Kelly, How To Be Alone

[20] Madeline Miller, Circe

[21] Sir John Wilmot, To His Mistress

[22] Fatamah Asgar, Oil

[23] Del Shores

[24] William Wordsworth, Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood

[25] Gwendolyn Brooks, To Those of My Sisters Who Kept Their Naturals

[26] T.S. Eliot, Philip Massinger

[27] Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist

[28] Ocean Vuong, Reasons for Staying

[29] Ukamaka Olisakwe, Slut

[30] Paul Celan tr. Pierre Joris, Harbor

[31] A. Pat Malcolm, The Poet is a Full-Time Student

[32] Derek Jarman, Shadow is the Queen of Color

[33] Wisława Szymborska tr. Stanisław Barańczak & Clare Cavanagh, Landscape

[34] Philip Pullman, The Amber Spyglass

[35] Italo Calvino tr. William Weaver, The Form of Space

[36] Anatoly Kim tr. Leo Gruliow, Road Stop in August

[37] Iris Murdoch, The Black Prince

[38] Alexandra Grilikhes, The Vanguard Artist Dreams Her Work

[39] David Lehman, Introduction to The Cento

[40] Saul Steinberg, quoted in Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist

[41] Yusef Komunyakaa, Starlight Scope Myopia

[42] Kazim Ali, Refuge Temple

[43] Lindsey Holland, Snowballing

[44] John Keats, Ode

[45] Arundhati Roy, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

[46] Circe Maia tr. original, From Behind My Voice

[47] Victoria Chang, OBIT

[48] James Grabill, Poems Rising Out of the Earth and Standing Up in Someone

[49] Elizabeth Alexander, Why Poetry, Why Now

[50] David Herd, Poems

[51] Edgar Lee Masters, Archibald Higbie

[52] Ralph Waldo Emerson

[53] Henry David Thoreau, Walden

[54] Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

[55] Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Scholar

[56] C.P. Cavafy tr. Rae Dalven, The Inkwell

[57] Matthew Bevis, Some Birds

[58] Adrienne Maree Brown, Emergent Strategy

[59] Charles Wright, Littlefoot 9

[60] Anita Jeffries, My Miracle Now

[61] Socrates

[62] Confucius tr. Edward Slingerland, Analects 7.28

[63] J.D. Salinger,The Catcher in the Rye

[64] Edgar Allan Poe, The Literary Life of Thingum Bob, Esq.

[65] Homer tr. Samuel Butler, The Odyssey

[66] Seamus Heaney retelling Sophocles, The Burial at Thebes

[67] Chandogya-Upanishad 5.1.1

[68] Emily Dickinson, I dwell in Possibility 

[69] Lenore M. Coberly, On Purple Mountain Inside the Ancient City Wall of Nanjing

[70] Clifford Geertz, Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture

[71] Anne Stevenson, Elegy: in Coherent Light

[72] Toni Morrison, The Dancing Mind

[73] Philip Kapleau, The Three Pillars of Zen

[74] Pablo Neruda tr. Robert Bly, Letter to Miguel Otero Silva, in Caracas

[75] James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

[76] Donald J. Ortner, Forwardto Smithsonian Timelines of the Ancient World

[77] John Dryden, Mac-Flecknoe

[78] William Shakespeare, Sonnet CVI

[79] Fidel Castro, Castro’s Speech to Intellectuals 30 June 61

[80] James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

[81] Matthew 16:24 (King James)

[82] Alan Watts, This Is It

[83] The Epic of Gilgamesh tr. N.K. Sandars

[84] John Berger, And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos

[85] John Ashbery, Hotel Lautréamont

[86] Bill Berkson, About Polyphony

[87] Czesław Miłosz, quoted by Jane Flanders in The House that Fear Built: Warsaw, 1943

[88] Ursula K. Le Guin, The Matter of Seggri

[89] Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

[90] Jim Harrison, on Shinkichi Takahansi in the American Poetry Review

[91] Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Locksley Hall

[92] John Milton, Paradise Lost

[93] Wendell Berry, Elegy

[94] Anton Chekhov tr. Constance Garnett, The Cherry Orchard

[95] Samuel Daniel, Literature

[96] Walt Whitman, By Blue Ontario’s Shore

[97] Rudolf Steiner, A Theory of Knowledge Based on Goethe’s World Conception

[98] George Abraham, Post-Script: Against Consolidation

[99] Priscilla Leonard, Happiness

[100] Yukio Mishima tr. John Nathan, The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea

bottom of page