Having always liked the idea of the carnet approach to writing about poetry, in early 2006 I started plotting a possible Poetry Notebook. At a meeting in London with Christian Wiman, editor of Poetry (Chicago) and one of the guest poets on this site, I suggested the outlines of a discursive piece about concrete and abstract language in twentieth century poetry. He went for it, and the piece was eventually published, but it quickly became evident that no single periodical could soak up all I would have to say on the topic of poetry in my remaining years, so when other opportunities showed up that I thought might be corralled for the purpose, I was quick to rope them in. Commissioned articles about single poets wouldn't be in the purview: the argument would need to be about poetry itself, not about careers. At first this requirement threatened to narrow the scope for initiative, but quite soon the opposite proved true.
In connection with drumming up pre-publication coverage for my book Cultural Amnesia in the US, the Wall Street Journal asked me for a featurette on my "Five Favourite Poetry Books": normally the sort of assignment that I avoid, because of the short wordage, but in this scrap-book format, I thought, it might fit. A piece that I wrote for an Oxford college anthology that was supposed to go commercial came free when the anthology went belly-up instead. I amplified the piece and offered it to that excellent Sydney publication The Monthly, but always with a view to incorporating it in my notebook afterwards. And so, I hope, it will be with any other occasions to write on this infinite subject: including, perhaps, the occasion offered by the website itself, with its infinity of white space. To that extent, if no further, this could be my first example of a future book grown in cyberspace, like a crystal in free fall.
(Painting: Man With Bouquet by Jeffrey Smart)