Archive | Lexicon

Charles Olson

I take SPACE to be the central fact to man born in America, from Folsom cave to now. I spell it large because it comes large here. Large, and without mercy. It is geography at bottom, a hell of wide land from the beginning. That made the first American story: exploration. PLUS a harshness we still perpetuate, a sun like a tomahawk, small earthquakes but big tornadoes and hurrikans, a river north and south in the middle of the land running out of blood.

—Call Me Ishmael

䷜ The Abysmal Water / The Living Midnight

Next, the coming and going is traceless, the floating and sinking are indiscernible. The channels are stilled, energy stop: this is true intercourse. This what is what is called “the moon steeped in myriad waters.” When the celestial mind first stirs in the midst of that utter darkness of the unknown, this is the return of initial positive energy. This is “living midnight.” Once the celestial mind stirs, then use pure attention to raise it up to the camber of THE CREATIVE, with the light of spirit focused on the crown of the head to guide it. This is acting in time.

—The Secret of the Golden Flower

Joseph Brodsky

A person sets out to write a poem for a variety of reasons: to win the heart of his beloved; to express his attitude toward the reality surrounding him, be it a landscape or a state; to capture his state of mind at a given instant; to leave – as he thinks at that moment – a trace on the earth. The black vertical clot of words on the white sheet of paper presumably reminds him of his own situation in the world, of the balance between space and his body. The immediate consequence of this enterprise is the sensation of coming into direct contact with language or, more precisely, the sensation of immediately falling into dependence on it, on everything that has already been uttered, written, and accomplished in it.


From this week’s New Yorker:

Carl Jung

Whoever speaks in primordial images speaks with a thousand voices; he enthralls and overpowers…he transmutes our personal destiny into the destiny of mankind, and evokes in all those beneficent forces that have enabled humanity to find a refuge from every peril and to outlive the longest night.


Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

Physical beauty results from the harmonious action of various parts which can be taken in at a glance. The poet, who must necessarily detail in succession the elements of beauty, should therefore desist entirely from the description of physical beauty as such. He must feel that these elements arranged in a series cannot possibly produce the same effect as in juxtaposition…and that to conceive the effect of certain eyes, a certain mouth and nose taken together…surpasses the power of human imagination.


Mary Reufle

What you carried inside you when you walked through the door was this ability. It is your ability to apprehend beauty, or the lack of it. It is your ability to listen. And change, or be changed. It has something to do with the secret of human existence, which is nowhere revealed, and nowhere concealed, and in front of which we remain, or become, infants.


Gaston Bachelard

Fire suggests the power to change, to speed up the passage of time, to bring all of life to its conclusion, to its hereafter. In these circumstances, the reverie becomes truly fascinating and dramatic; it magnifies human destiny; it links the small, it links the small to the great, the hearth to the volcano, the life of a log to the life of the world. The fascinated individual hears the call of the funeral pyre. For him destruction is more than a change it is a renewal.

—The Psychology of Fire

Susan Howe

Conversion is a sort of death, a falling into Love’s powerful attraction. Power is pitiless once you have put it on. The poet is an intermediary hunting from beyond form, truth beyond theme through woods of words tangled and tremendous. Who owns the woods? Freedom to roam poetically means freedom to hunt.

—My Emily Dickinson

Robert Bringhurst

1.1 Letters have a life and dignity of their own

Letterforms that honor and elucidate what humans see and say deserve to be honored in their turn. Well-chosen words deserve well-chosen letters; these in turn deserve to be set with affection, intelligence, knowledge, skill. Typography is a link, and it ought, a s a matter of honor, courtesy, and pure delight, to be as strong as the others in the chain.

Writing beings with the making of footprints, the leaving of signs. Like speaking, it is a perfectly natural act which humans have carried to complex extremes. The typographer’s task has always been to add a somewhat unnatural edge, a protective shell of artificial order, to the power of the writing hand.

—The Elements of Typographic Style

Jane Hirshfield

Modern consciousness no longer conceives of a noble cause that is not haunted, nor of a beauty that is not also terrifying. We have learned that every gift carries its price. Everywhere we look, the theme appears: wisdom, at least in the west, is obtained through transgression and paid for in suffering. The journey into maturity, whether seen in Odysseus or Aeneas or the joined figures of Persephone and Demeter, must pass through the underworld realms of uncertainty, fear, and death, before the green and peaceful life the hero longs for can be restored—and both world and self are irrevocably changed by that immersion.


Susanna Childress

There   needs   to   be   no   right   word       There   needs   to   be   a   wide   hole       a

whole mouth     where the right word       isn’t