Things to think about when writing or reading poetry


Below are some poetry thoughts from Wayne Dodd, from a course I took from him in 1991 at Ohio University.

  • Language as magic, as a glimpse of something just beyond vision.
  • Attention beyond intention.
  • Language, where speaking speaks what is speechless (as opposed to unspeakable).
  • Avoid the habit of always hearing what we already understand.
  • It is the unspoken that comes closest to a true speaking language.
  • Avoid reductive digression and fender straightening.
  • Think about truth and the search for it.
  • The interval created by “if” makes the poem.
  • The first fact of the world is that it repeats itself.
  • The more it’s your own voice, the more I want to hear it.
  • All poems are language problems.
  • A poem should move to a further dimension beyond description and telling. There needs to be further seeing and insight.
  • Take that next step beyond something managed, safe and careful.
  • There is no room in a poem for the merely descriptive.
  • To be able to stay with uncertainty longer.
  • Hear a more delicate music.
  • Free the hand of imagination.
  • You’re lost in a poem the minute you know what the conclusion will be.
  • Writing requires a certain kind of listening, waiting, and receptiveness.
  • Don’t be guilty of balance prepense.
  • Cliché thinking holds the author from the possibility of a further encounter.
  • A good poem is always about more than one thing.
  • Ego and intention get in the way of listening to what is really in a poem.
  • Be on the catch for things that happen in a poem.
  • Memory is a ready and dependable source of material.
  • It is a test of character to take good stuff out of a poem.
  • Be responsible to things, both within and without.
  • A poem is something overheard, not something to be heard.
  • Be vigilant against the merely self-indulgent.
  • Honor both that which is within one’s self and that which is outside one’s self.
  • The over explicit poem is incomprehensible.
  • Art evokes the mystery without which the world would not exist.
  • The mystery of being must be present in a poem.
  • Pay attention to the detail of the landscape.
  • Use a vocabulary precise to the landscape.
  • Hold back the rush of one’s intentions towards something.
  • Be quiet a little longer, be silent a little longer.
  • Every good poem is a risk with sentimentality.
  • Whatever you are writing about is done for its own sake, it’s done out of love and respect for it.
  • The unbearable beingness of being.
  • Pay attention to the interior and exterior in balance.
  • Where you see a problem in a poem is not necessarily the source of the problem.
  • A neurotic essence of emptiness.
  • A poem must create a habitable space, that’s the poem.
  • A poem should not be too restrictively about something.
  • A gambit to see something else, something more.
  • Hold back a little longer.
  • A good poem honors silence. What is doesn’t say is what makes you like it.
  • Being and non-being: mutually exclusive and mutually defining.
  • You don’t see something until you have an image of it already.
  • A spiritual and prayerful preparation of seeing.
  • Looking for beauty till it perches like a bird on your gun.
  • I don’t want to write any poems I know how to write.
  • One breaks silence only to bring attention to something more important.
  • There are forms of meaning that we’ve had no part in creating: one can hear it, as much as anywhere, in the silence.
  • Poems are all about becoming, and all long for being.
  • Poetry is a singing, not a solicitation; not persuasion, just existence.
  • A craving, a longing, a blood relationship with nature. Have you tried being fire?
  • The best poems are written and read in fear.
  • You change one thing in a poem and everything else changes.
  • Generalizations are the allies of tyranny and oppression and falsehood: poetry honors the specific.
  • All good poems are personal to everybody, not to an individual.
  • A poem is a loving invocation of “thingness.”
  • Push toward that place where a poem merges with the large emotional content of human life.
  • Absolute unmixed attention is prayer; maybe it’s also poetry, dammit.
  • Give it a chance to become metaphoric.
  • In a dream there is not an alternate reality, it is a sensually complete world.
  • The most trustworthy material is that which we do not intend, but are a host for.
  • Danger sign for a bad poem: feeling too good about it once it’s done.
  • A poet’s only responsibility is challenging his habitual patterns of thought and feeling.
  • Put pressure on language to make it yield up an energy of content to make something available.
  • Use a language or music that is least likely to mistake one’s concerns.
  • The line is the last bastion against chaos.
  • The poem suddenly achieves the translation of the reader from a familiar mode of perception to an unfamiliar mode of perception.
  • Pretty is easy, beautiful is much more demanding.
Image credit:David Travis

Eliot Jacobson received his Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of Arizona in 1983. For 25 years, Eliot was a Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science. Eliot retired from his position at UCSB in 2009.

After a decade as a player beating the house, Eliot founded his company Jacobson Gaming in 2006. His company specialized in casino table game mathematics, slot machine design, advantage play analysis and auditing online casinos.

Eliot has written three books on gambling. His most recent book, "Advanced Advantage Play" (available on Amazon) is an industry best-seller on the topic of legally beating casino table games and marketing promotions.

Eliot has consulted with casinos internationally, been an expert witness in high-profile cases and has been a sought-after keynote speaker, trainer, and seminar leader. Most recently, Eliot was informed that he will be given the Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s World Game Protection Conference in Las Vegas in October.

Eliot closed his business and fully retired in 2017. He now spends his days active as a volunteer, husband, and grandfather.