After a conversation with Christian Wiman, who was editor of Poetry (Chicago) at the time, I wrote the first instalment of a "poetry notebook" in 2006, with only a vague idea that a collection of such instalments might one day add up to a full-sized book. I saw myself adding the occasional sheaf of notes more or less forever, as a kind of incidental activity. But after I fell ill in early 2010 it became clear to me that the note form I had chosen as a caprice had now become compulsory. Owing to a shortage of breath, extended critical pieces seemed no longer possible; but since I had more ideas than ever, the short critical piece, or even the mere paragraph, was a way of getting things said about the subject that has always mattered to me most. My main reason for getting them said was that I had been thinking about poetry all my life, and it was time to sum up. but one of the conclusions that I had long ago reached was that a poem should be something that could be spoken about clearly, even if it wasn't clear in itself. Poets might be abstruse if they wished, but their critics should not. So I worked hard to say things plainly, and I hope this little book reflects that aim. I also took care to be as entertaining as possible, but that was common courtesy. A poem, when it works, is the essence of verbal excitement. To be boring about it is inexcusable. One of the links below leads to the sheaf of chapters from Poetry (Chicago) that were already on this site, but there is a lot more in the book, including a swathe of linking material in which I do what I can to make coherent sense of a subject which necessarily exists only as a swarm of glittering fragments, like the stars.