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Technical Notes

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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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Technical Notes

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