Technical Notes

By James Laughlin 1914–1997 James Laughlin
Catullus is my master and I mix   
a little acid and a bit of honey   
      in his bowl love

is my subject & the lack of love   
which lack is what makes evil a   
      poet must strike

Catullus could rub words so hard   
together their friction burned a   
      heat that warms

us now 2000 years away I roll the   
words around my mouth & count the   
      letters in each

line thus eye and ear contend in-
side the poem and draw its move-
      ment tight Milton

thought rhyme was vulgar I agree   
yet sometimes if it’s hidden in   
      the line a rhyme

will richen tone the thing I most   
despise is quote poetic unquote   
      diction I prefer

to build with plain brown bricks
of common talk American talk then   
      set 1 Roman stone

among them for a key I know Ca-
tullus knew a poem is like a blow   
      an impact strik-

ing where you least expect this I   
believe and yet with me a poem   
      is finally just
      a natural thing.

James Laughlin, “Technical Notes” from Poems New and Selected. Copyright © 1996 by James Laughlin. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: Poems New and Selected (1998)

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Poet James Laughlin 1914–1997

Subjects Poetry & Poets, Arts & Sciences

 James  Laughlin


While a sophomore on leave of absence from Harvard University, James Laughlin met Ezra Pound in Rapallo, Italy, and was invited to attend the "Ezuversity"—Pound's term for the private tutoring he gave Laughlin over meals, on hikes, or whenever the master paused in his labors. "I stayed several months in Rapallo at the 'Ezuversity,' learning and reading," recalls Laughlin in an interview with Linda Kuehl for the New York Times . . .

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SUBJECT Poetry & Poets, Arts & Sciences

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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