Quoets for Poets — poet, poem, reader

(For my buddy, Jeremy, because we were talking about it…and I finally found it…..just not where I was looking for it.)


"This phrase sounds as if it comes out of nowhere, 
as if the poem is discovering itself at the precise moment 
we are reading it."
"Which is what every great poem does."    
---James Longenbach

5 thoughts on “Quoets for Poets — poet, poem, reader

  1. JCC
    I frequently find things exactly where I was NOT looking for them.

    Your quote reminds me of what I was reading last night before sleep. Poets like to say (in poetic terms to display their poetic prowess) how one judges good poetry from not-so-good. I had to go leaf through my book and find it.

    According to Robert Graves in “The White Goddess”, AE Housman’s test of a true poem is this: “does it make the hairs of one’s chin bristle if one repeats it silently while shaving?”

    There’s also a later bit where he reported that Keats said it “goes through me like a spear”.

    My goodness. It will be a few more years yet before I’ll be to the shaving stage of old lady development and able to judge a true poem by whiskers standing up while I shave (I still pluck). And I think I’ll skip the run-through-with-a-spear test.

    I’ll stick my own personal test: I know what I like.

    Not so poetic or metaphorical. But there. 😉


    Liked by 1 person

    • I prefer to simply say what are “tell-tales” of good poems, like “a good poem asks more questions than it answers.”
      And as to the bad, I’ll just stick with: I know what I don’t like, but that doesn’t necessarily make it bad poetry. I try not to point the nasty finger of superiority at “bad poets,” with the exception of Rod McKuen and Mary Oliver and-and-and…..
      Yeah. Like I said, I “try.”
      But seriously, I have found that without a doubt appreciation and comprehension do not correlate and that often what one dislikes is simply what one does not comprehend. So I really do try to reserve judgement somewhat indefinitely.

      As to chin-whiskers, well I can’t say as that’s ever happened to me, I’m too cerebral, not visceral enough, but I have gotten a chill or two.

      Liked by 1 person

      • There are some highly regarded poets that I’ve had trouble digesting. But, like you say, no pointing my nasty finger of superiority. They are the “real” poets while I’m simply a word hobbyist.

        Some folks have told me that they don’t like my poetry (gasp!) not because it lacks poetic-ness but because of the dark content. (Would like me to write happy stuff. I’ll chat with the muses about this.)

        But then, I admit not wanting to listen to poetry with lots of swear words.

        No chin whiskers tremble here. But I sigh and weep with best. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        • We write what we must. The muses will no doubt tell you to keep doing what you’re doing. 😉

          I humbly request that you keep doing what you’re doing (even as I have had little time to keep up!).

          I like dark content. Crave it, even.
          And Honey, you’re as real as they come.
          I like to think of these things in terms of the definitions of “vocation” vs. “avocation.”

          Avocation is usually defined as a “hobby,” however, almost always it is seen as something one does for “enjoyment.” I don’t know about you–no wait, I’m pretty sure I DO because you are much like me in this regard and I do not simply write poetry because I enjoy it. I must. I am driven. As are you.

          That make you “real.”

          Besides, only poets like McKuen and Oliver can actually make a living through poetry alone. And even they didn’t/don’t “really” just do poetry. They write books and stuff.

          Yes, I switched S-words there. See how I did that? I’m trying to clean up my potty mouth, or at least keep it from infecting (invecting?) my poetry/blogging.

          I do so enjoy these talks. Let’s keep it up, shall we?


          • I grew up with with swearing dad who thought it cute to teach his babies bad words. Then I was a construction worker in my late teens and learned to swear purty durn better than my ol’ pappy. Then I rode a motorcycle for many years and some of those biker folks can swear nicely especially when drinking beer. Then I had kids.I hung up my motorcycle helmet and some of the spicier parts of my vocabulary.

            Thanks for your kind encouragement. Driven to write poetry. Yup. Pretty much. And unhappy when I don’t go along on the tide. I’m the opening the wind blows through.

            I shall get up tomorrow morning again and make myself available to the muses again and accept what they send again.

            Yes. It’s lovely to talk with you. Thanks.

            Liked by 1 person

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