from the Hartford Aphorism Conference

The indefatigable aphorist and convener extraordinaire Jim Finnegan, proprietor of the ursprache blog and genius loci of Tramp Freighter, brought together dozens of like-minded Hartford residents on April 1 for a one-day conference on aphorisms. After a talk by myself and readings by aphorist/poets Sharon Dolin, Alfred Corn and George Murray, a couple dozen aspiring and accomplished aphorists engaged in an afternoon of analyzing, discussing, writing and sharing aphorisms. A selection of the amazing results is below.

I suppose we should expect Hartford, old stomping ground of Mark Twain and Wallace Stevens, to continue to produce masters of the one-liner. Even so, the engagement, verve and sheer wordsmithing skill of the workshop participants was truly impressive. It was a lively, fun, inspiring day, of which I was glad to be a part.


Norah Christianson

The fox in the hen house is not looking for a hat.

Eat, drink, and be merry and you’ll never write a book.

Give us this day our daily bread, cause mama ain’t no cook.

To search for true love is to search for icicles on the sun.

Anne Sheffield

When we carry too many
bags, the one we need most
is left behind.

The more we have,
the more we can’t find.

We buy things, then
rent storage, then dumpsters.

Most people travel
round trip, others one way.

JoAnne Bauer

Bravery is recognizing no other options.

Holding hands requires tucking elbows.

Finally grieving your leaving, I show up.

Life sentence; endless death.

Charlie Chase

Anyone who says life is too short must not be paying attention.

It’s not that I don’t love you; it’s that you want me to.

I had no time to check my watch.

So many opinions—what we need is a good breeze.

Susan Gilmore

The clementine is the aphorist’s orange.

Everybody wants a piece of the pie, but nobody wants a piece of your mind.

If he tells you he’s just getting started then you’d better finish it.

Home is the place that is no place like home.

Joseph Ellison Brockway

A strong metaphor pries open the eyelid of a sleeping mind.

Even sugar in the sweetest mouth leads to decay.

Even the smallest grain of dirt in a dust storm rises to the occasion.

No raindrop drops alone.

Carolyn Gimbrone

Art is the soul laid bare on a canvas.

A wall once built is hard to demolish.

Harsh words can worm their way into even a hardened heart.

If the door is left open even a crack, the disaffected can enter again.

Ronald Pearson

Everybody says you can’t fool all of the people all of the time, but some really dangerous people know you only have to fool enough of the people enough of the time.

The long and winding road to success is less traveled than the expressway to glorious failure.

Einstein said, “Everything should be as simple as possible, but no simpler.” Today, we want it simpler.

Randy Johnson

Empty mind, empty pen.

Death is a pause.

Extra packaging, landfill ravaging.

Refuse to reuse, drown in refuse.

Nancy Otter

Fish don’t know they are in water.

Memories are what one expects one’s past to have been.

No two people climb the same mountain.

The voice does not choose the ears which hear it.

Jim Finnegan

Our arms seem to open widest when we’re falling.

Art on the walls always makes the walls smaller.

Speaking to a stranger isn’t possible.

Best not forget that the clock is an instrument of torture.