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Poetry

  • I would have any one, who really and truly has leisure and ability, make verses. I think it a more refining and happy-making occupation than any other pastime accomplishment.

  • Poetry is prose bewitched, a music made of visual thoughts, the sound of an idea.

    • Mina Loy,
    • "Modern Poetry (c. 1925), in Roger L. Conover, ed., The Lost Lunar Baedecker ()
  • ... reading [poetry], you know, is rather like opening the door to a horde of rebels who swarm out attacking one in twenty places at once — hit, roused, scraped, bared, swung through the air, so that life seems to flash by; then again blinded, knocked on the head — all of which are agreeable sensations for a reader (since nothing is more dismal than to open the door and get no response) ...

  • The borderline between prose and poetry is one of those fog-shrouded literary minefields where the wary explorer gets blown to bits before ever seeing anything clearly. It is full of barbed wire and the stumps of dead opinions.

  • Now, in our opinion no author should be blamed for obscurity, nor should any pains be grudged in the effort to understand him, provided that he has done his best to be intelligible. Difficult thoughts are quite distinct from difficult words. Difficulty of thought is the very heart of poetry.

  • With mimicry, with praises, with echoes, or with answers, the poets have all but outsung the bell. The inarticulate bell has found too much interpretation, too many rhymes professing to close with her inaccessible utterance, and to agree with her remote tongue. The bell, like the bird, is a musician pestered with literature.

  • ... poetry has been able to function quite directly as human interpretation of the raw, loose universe. It is a mixture, if you will, of journalism and metaphysics, or of science and religion.

  • He who draws noble delights from the sentiment of poetry is a true poet, though he has never written a line in all his life.

  • ... both prayer and poetry begin deep within a person, beyond the reach of language.

    • Kathleen Norris,
    • in Jack Heffron, ed., The Best Writing on Writing, vol. 2 ()
  • ... poetry 'The Cinderella of the Arts.'

  • Poetry is like walking along a little, tiny, narrow ridge up on a precipice. You never know the next step, whether there's going to be a plunge. I think poetry is dangerous. There's nothing mild and predictable about poetry.

  • The only people who still read poetry are poets, and they mostly read their own.

  • Once considered an art form that called for talent, or at least a craft that called for practice, a poem now needs only sincerity. Everyone, we're assured, is a poet. Writing poetry is good for us. It expresses our inmost feelings, which is wholesome. Reading other people's poems is pointless since those aren't our own inmost feelings.

  • In poetry you can leave out everything but the truth.

  • ... poetry ... shows with a sudden intense clarity what is already there.

  • I hope that the feeling of making poetry is not confined to the people who write it down. There is no luxury like it, and I hope we all share it. ... I am sure that the great glory of poetry in one's heart does not wait on achievement.

  • Poetry has a way of teaching one what one needs to know ... if one is honest.

  • Try making a poem as if it were a table, clear and solid, standing there outside you.

  • Your poems will happen when no one is there.

    • May Sarton,
    • "A Last Word," A Grain of Mustard Seed ()
  • I suppose I have written novels to find out what I thought about something and poems to find out what I felt about something.

  • ... one of the springs of poetry is joy ...

  • ... each new poem is partly propelled by the formal energies of all the poems that have preceded it in the history of literature.

  • Poetry finds its perilous equilibrium somewhere between music and speech ...

  • For poetry is, I believe, always an act of the spirit. The poem teaches us something while we make it. The poem makes you as you make the poem, and your making of the poem requires all your capacities of thought, feeling, analysis, and synthesis.

  • For poetry exists to break through to below the level of reason where the angels and monsters that the amenities keep in the cellar may come out to dance, to rove and roar, growling and singing, to bring life back to the enclosed rooms where too often we are only 'living and partly living.'

  • In the novel or the journal you get the journey. In a poem you get the arrival.

    • May Sarton,
    • in Earl G. Ingersoll, ed., Conversations With May Sarton ()
  • For me a true poem is on the way when I begin to be haunted, when it seems as if I were being asked an inescapable question by an angel with whom I must wrestle to get at the answer.

    • May Sarton,
    • "Revision as Creation," Sarton Selected ()
  • Poetry is a dangerous profession between conflict and resolution, between feeling and thought, between becoming and being, between the ultra-personal and the universal — and these balances are shifting all the time.

    • May Sarton,
    • "On Growth and Change," Sarton Selected ()
  • Poems like to have a destination for their flight. They are homing pigeons.

    • May Sarton,
    • 1940, in Susan Sherman, ed., May Sarton: Among the Usual Days ()
  • In poetry compromise is fatal. In action of any cooperative sort it is inevitable. The thing is to find the balance.

    • May Sarton,
    • 1943, in Susan Sherman, ed., May Sarton: Among the Usual Days ()
  • One could go on revising a prose page forever whereas there is a point in a poem when one knows it is done forever.

    • May Sarton,
    • 1949, in Susan Sherman, ed., May Sarton: Among the Usual Days ()
  • I feel often very close to the ecstasy and anguish which lie at the very heart of poetry — I am writing a lot.

    • May Sarton,
    • 1959, in Susan Sherman, ed., May Sarton: Among the Usual Days ()
  • I cannot understand why poetry is not taught at schools as a way of seeing, a quick, untiring path to essentials.

    • May Sarton,
    • 1939, in Susan Sherman, ed., May Sarton: Selected Letters 1916-1954 ()
  • ... poetry is first of all a way of life and only secondarily a way of writing.

    • May Sarton,
    • 1941, in Susan Sherman, ed., May Sarton: Selected Letters 1916-1954 ()
  • ... over and over again I am struck by the wordiness of modern poetry, as if language had replaced experience and must be more and more extreme, intricate and in a way divorced from life itself. It seems as if what we all need is a great purification — but how will that come about?

    • May Sarton,
    • 1942, in Susan Sherman, ed., May Sarton: Selected Letters 1916-1954 ()
  • Poem me no poems.

  • We have the ability to be the Athens of modern times as opposed to the militaristic Sparta. I remind you that the Athenians wrote poetry. The Spartans did not.

  • Poetry is not a luxury.

  • Poetry is not only dream and vision; it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundations for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before.

  • Of all the art forms, poetry is the most economical. It is the one which is the most secret, which requires the least physical labor, the least material, and the one which can be done between shifts, in the hospital pantry, on the subway, and on scraps of surplus paper. ... poetry has been the major voice of poor, working class, and Colored women. A room of one's own may be a necessity for writing prose, but so are reams of paper, a typewriter, and plenty of time.

    • Audre Lorde,
    • "Age, Race, Class, and Sex," speech (1980), Sister Outsider ()
  • Poetry, whose material is language, is perhaps the most human and least worldly of the arts, the one in which the end product remains closest to the thought that inspired it.

  • Birth is the start / of loneliness / & loneliness the start / of poetry: / that seems a crude / reduction of it all, / but truth / is often crude.

    • Erica Jong,
    • "Dear Marys, Dear Mother, Dear Daughter," Loveroot ()
  • A poem (surely someone has said this before) is a one-night stand, a short story a love affair, and a novel a marriage.

  • Mediocre prose might be read as an escape, might be spoken on television by actors, or mouthed in movies. But mediocre poetry did not exist at all. If poetry wasn't good, it wasn't poetry. It was that simple.

  • ... poetry comforts as nothing else can ... we are still a race for whom magic is a word.

  • Poetry is the inner life of a culture, its nervous system, its deepest way of imagining the world. A culture that ignores its poets, chokes off its nervous system and becomes mortally ill.

  • I started with poetry because it was direct, immediate, and short. It was the ecstasy of striking matches in the dark.

  • ... we need poetry most at those moments when life astounds us with losses, gains, or celebrations. We need it most when we are most hurt, most happy, most downcast, most jubilant. Poetry is the language we speak in times of greatest need. And the fact that it is an endangered species in our culture tells us that we are in deep trouble.

    • Erica Jong,
    • "Yeats's Glade and Basho's Bee: The Impossibility of Doing Without Poetry," What Do Women Want? ()
  • Poems, like dreams, are a sort of royal road to the unconscious. They tell you what your secret self cannot express.

  • If not poetry, then what?

    • Rosario Castellanos,
    • essay title (1973), in Maureen Ahern, ed., A Rosario Castellanos Reader ()
  • O Love, how thou art tired out with rhyme! / Thou art a tree whereon all poets clime ...

  • ... poetry consists not so much in number, words, and phrase, as in fancy.

  • I am subjective, intimate, private, particular, / confessional. / All that happens, / happens to me. / ... / If you're interested / in birds, trees, rivers, / try reference books. / Don't read my poems.

    • Nina Cassian,
    • "Ars poetica -- a polemic," Cheerleader for a Funeral ()
  • I want to propose to you a conspiracy of poets to offset the innumerable conspiracies which have made this world a nightmare. ... We need the intuitive imagination of the great poets, to comprehend in even a small way the nature of the forces that are moving the world.

    • Dorothy Thompson,
    • 1939, in Peter Kurth, American Cassandra: The Life of Dorothy Thompson ()
  • ... poetry requires two readers. They need to be read aloud, to be sung, cried, bellowed; they need to be exclaimed over. Prose can be read alone, as one can eat a sandwich alone; but poetry is an intoxicant, and solitary drinking is a vice.

  • We ask the poet: 'What subject have you chosen?' instead of: 'What subject has chosen you?'

  • The human creature is alone in his carapace. Poetry is a strong way out.

  • Poetry is very strong and never has any kindness at all. She is Thetis and Hermes, the Angel, the white horse and the landscape. All Poetry has to do is to make a strong communication. All the poet has to do is to listen. The poet is not an important fellow. There will always be another poet.

  • Why does my Muse only speak when she is unhappy? / She does not, I only listen when I am unhappy / When I am happy I live and despise writing / For my Muse this cannot but be dispiriting.


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  • Truth is far and flat, and fancy is fiery; and truth is cold, and people feel the cold, and they may wrap themselves against it in fancies that are fiery, but they should not call them facts; and, generally, poets do not; they are shrewd, they feel the cold, too, but they know a hawk from a handsaw, a fact from a fancy, as none knows better.

  • It seems to me that this is the true test for poetry: — that it should go beneath experience, as prose can never do, and awaken an apprehension of things we have never, and can never, know in the actuality.

  • Prose is a poor thing, a poor inadequate thing, compared with poetry which says so much more in shorter time.

  • ... one of Mr. [Thomas] Hardy's ancestors must have married a weeping willow. There are pages and pages in his collected poems which are simply plain narratives in ballad form of how an unenjoyable time was had by all.

    • Rebecca West,
    • "Two Kinds of Memory," The Strange Necessity ()
  • Poetry is the alchemy which teaches us to convert ordinary materials into gold.

  • Poetry, which is our relation to the senses, enables us to retain a living relationship to all things. It is the quickest means of transportation to reach dimensions above or beyond the traps set by the so-called realists. It is a way to learn levitation and travel in liberated continents, to travel by moonlight as well as sunlight.

  • Only when the poet and the scientist work in unison will we have living experiences and knowledge of the marvels of the universe as they are being discovered.

  • Indeed, since poetry is at base a word game and therefore capable of being examined by a horde of wordlovers, it is perhaps the most overscrutinized of accomplishments. Even the people who ought to understand it best — the poets — are not altogether to be trusted. Poets practice an irrational art. Theirs is an attempt to express the inexpressible (maybe as good a definition of poetry as any other) and they often bring it off. ... Trying to explain their procedures after the event they invent. They attribute conscious artifice to what was essentially a creative experience, a kind of drunkenness. I suppose I am alluding to that intangible which amateurs call Inspiration. There is such a thing as inspiration (lower case) but it is no miracle. It is the reward handed to a writer for hard work and good conduct. ... At the triumphant moment this gift may seem like magic but actually it is the result of effort, practice, and the slight temperature a sulky brain is apt to run when it is pushed beyond its usual exertions.

  • Not reading poetry amounts to a national pastime here.

  • But the more poetry one reads the more one longs to read!

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • 1921, in J. Middleton Murry, ed., The Letters of Katherine Mansfield, vol. 2 ()
  • I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all this fiddle. / Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers in / it after all, a place for the genuine.

  • Nor till the poets among us can be / 'literalists of / the imagination' — above / insolence and triviality and can present / for inspection, imaginary gardens with real toads in them, / shall we have / it.

  • ... I can see no reason for calling my work poetry except that there is no other category in which to put it.

    • Marianne Moore,
    • "A Felicitous Response," The Christian Science Monitor ()
  • As said previously, if what I write is called poetry it is because there is no other category in which to put it.

    • Marianne Moore,
    • "Subject, Predicate, Object," in The Christian Science Monitor ()
  • What I write can only be termed poetry because there is no other category in which to put it.

  • Conscious writing can be the death of poetry.

    • Marianne Moore,
    • 1965, in Patricia C. Willis, ed., The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore ()
  • In a poem, the words should be as pleasing to the ear as the meaning is to the mind.

    • Marianne Moore,
    • interview with Donald Hall (1965), in Donald Hall, Their Ancient Glittering Eyes ()
  • ... I never 'plan' a stanza. Words cluster like chromosomes, determining the procedure.

    • Marianne Moore,
    • interview with Donald Hall (1960), in The Paris Review Interviews, vol. 4 ()
  • Wariness had driven away poetry; from hesitating to feel came the moment when you no longer could.

  • Have not all poetic truths been already stated? The essence of a poetic truth is that no statement of it can be final.

    • Elizabeth Bowen,
    • "Notes on Writing a Novel" (1945), Pictures and Conversations ()
  • When they read this poem of mine, they are translators. / Every existence speaks a language of its own.

  • Poetry is above all a concentration of the power of language, which is the power of our ultimate relationship to everything in the universe.

  • The necessity of poetry has to be stated over and over, but only to those who have reason to fear its power, or those who still believe that language is 'only words' and that an old language is good enough for our descriptions of the world we are trying to transform.

    • Adrienne Rich,
    • "Power and Danger: Works of a Common Woman," On Lies, Secrets, and Silence ()
  • Poetry can open locked chambers of possibiity, restore numbed zones to feeling, recharge desire.

  • I do not think [poetry] is more, or less, necessary than food, shelter, health, education, decent working conditions. It is as necessary.

  • Any time is the time to make a poem.

  • Writing poems is my way of celebrating with the world that I have not committed suicide the evening before.

    • Alice Walker,
    • "From an Interview" (1973), In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens ()
  • Poetry, I have discovered, is always unexpected and always as faithful and honest as dreams.

    • Alice Walker,
    • "We Have a Beautiful Mother," Her Blue Body Everything We Know ()
  • In life, the number of beginnings is exactly equal to the number of endings ... In poetry, the number of beginnings so far exceeds the number of endings that we cannot even conceive of it.

  • I am convinced that the first lyric poem was written at night, and that the moon was witness to the event and that the event was witness to the moon. For me, the moon has always been the very embodiment of lyric poetry.

  • Yes, the mistrust of poetry has a long history, for a variety of reasons, but they all come down to sentiment and invention over fact and truth. Figurative language is suspicious.

  • Poetry is sentimental to begin with. To write a sentimental poem is an act of redundancy.

  • Words have a love for each other, a desire that culminates in poetry.

  • It is the first experience you ever had of reading a decent poem: 'Oh, somebody else is lonely, too!'

  • A poem is a finished work of the mind, it is not the work of a finished mind.

  • A poem is a neutrino — mainly nothing — it has no mass and can pass through the earth undetected.

  • ... one reason why I like writing poetry — you can say so many things in it that are true in poetry but wouldn't be true in prose.

  • People wish to be poets more than they wish to write poetry, and that's a mistake. One should wish to celebrate more than one wishes to be celebrated.

  • I don't go get a poem. It calls me and I accept it.

    • Lucille Clifton,
    • in Christine A. Sikorski, "An Interview With Lucille Clifton," A View From the Loft ()
  • A poet's mission is to make others confound fiction and reality in order to render them, for an hour, mysteriously happy.

    • Isak Dinesen,
    • in Judith Thurman, Isak Dinesen: Life of a Storyteller ()
  • The beautiful feeling after writing a poem is on the whole better even than after sex, and that's saying a lot.

    • Anne Sexton,
    • in William Packard, ed., The Craft of Poetry ()
  • Images are the heart of poetry ... You're not a poet without imagery.

    • Anne Sexton,
    • in William Packard, ed., The Craft of Poetry ()
  • It's a little mad, but I believe I am many people. When I am writing a poem, I feel I am the person who should have written it.

    • Anne Sexton,
    • in George Plimpton, ed., Writers at Work, vol 4. ()
  • Poetry to me is prayer ...

    • Anne Sexton,
    • 1966, in Linda Gray Sexton and Lois Ames, eds., Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters ()
  • I keep feeling that there isn't one poem being written by any one of us — or a book or anything like that. The whole life of us writers, the whole product I guess I mean, is the one long poem — a community effort if you will. It's all the same poem. It doesn't belong to any one writer — it's God's poem perhaps. Or God's people's poem.

    • Anne Sexton,
    • letter to Erica Jong (1974), in Linda Gray Sexton and Lois Ames, eds., Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters ()
  • ... my soul, / At poetry's divine first finger-touch, / Let go conventions and sprang up surprised ...

  • ... if there's room for poets in this world / A little overgrown (I think there is), / Their sole work is to represent the age, / Their age, not Charlemagne's ...

  • What form is best for poems? Let me think / Of forms less, and the external. Trust the spirit ... / Keep up the fire, / And leave the generous flames to shape themselves.

  • We can't separate our humanity from our poetry ...

  • If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way?

    • Emily Dickinson,
    • 1870, in Mabel Loomis Todd, ed., Letters of Emily Dickinson, vol. 2 ()
  • This is my letter to the World / That never write to Me — ...

    • Emily Dickinson,
    • c. 1862, in Thomas H. Johnson, ed., The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson ()
  • For a poet, style is the only morality.

    • Jennifer Stone,
    • "Eros: The Imperative of Intimacy," Stone's Throw ()
  • Writing poetry is like always being in love. What masochism! What luxury!

  • You can't make poetry out of thought; poetry is passion. Linear thought must be seduced by wild mind, by the fires of ecstasy.

  • The advantage of poetry over life is that poetry, if it is sharp enough, may last.

    • Louise Glück,
    • "Against Sincerity," in The American Poetry Review ()
  • The unsaid, for me, exerts great power ...

    • Louise Glück,
    • "Disruption, Hesitation, Silence," Proofs and Theories ()
  • ... prose is the respectable, grown-up form of written communication. Poetry is reserved for children and others brave or foolish enough to refuse the mainstream's ability to stipulate what color cows must be, which notes girls may sing, who can make love with whom.

  • I think, to a poet, the human community is like the community of birds to a bird, singing to each other. Love is one of the reasons we are singing to one another, love of language itself, love of sound, love of singing itself, and love of the other birds.

  • The three ingredients of poetry: the mystery of the universe, spiritual curiosity, the energy of language.

  • Look for verbs of muscle, adjectives of exactitude.

  • No poem is about one of us, or some of us, but is about all of us. It is part of a long document about the species. Every poem is about my life but also it is about your life, and a hundred thousand lives to come. That one person wrote it is not nearly so important or so interesting as that it pertains to us all.

  • Early poems are a thing it takes years to live down.

  • I feel a poem in my heart to-night, / A still thing growing, — / As if the darkness to the outer light / A song were owing ...

    • Mary Ashley Townsend,
    • "Embryo," in Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed., An American Anthology 1787-1900 ()
  • The poets have familiarized more people with history than have the historians ...

    • Barbara W. Tuchman,
    • "Can History Be Served Up Hot?" in The New York Times Book Review ()
  • Poetry is a dangerous gift ...

  • It was as fit for one man's thoughts to trot in iambs, as it is for me, / Who live not in the horse-age, but in the day of aeroplanes, to write my rhythms free.

  • The tumult of my fretted mind / Gives me expression of a kind; / But it is faulty, harsh, not plain - / My work has the incompetence of pain.

    • Anna Wickham,
    • "Self Analysis," The Contemplative Quarry ()
  • If my work is to be good, / I must transcend skill, I must master mood. / For the expression of the rare thing in me, / Is not in do, but deeper, in to be.

  • How can I pour the liquor of new days / In the old pipes of Rhyme?

  • Poetry is road maintenance for a fragmented world which seeks to be kept together. It's been an integral activity for a long time.

  • Poetry examines an emotional truth. It's an experience filtered through the personality of the poet. We look to poetry for visions, not scientific truths. The poet's job is to combine new elements. Explore their melting, seeping into one another.

  • 20th century poetry is a piñata. Images break from the earth when the poet strikes it.

  • Poetry saves what is human in this world going gaudy & insane. In exploring small truths, something larger might turn up, adding dimension, insight, vision, recognition to our lives. We just might be more complete, more aware after a poem.

  • I blessed the power which has filled my life with poetry.

    • Mary Butts,
    • 1929, in Nathalie Blondel, ed., The Journals of Mary Butts ()
  • Poetry, I thought then, and still do, is a matter of space on the page interrupted by a few well-chosen words, to give them importance. Prose is a less grand affair which has to stretch to the edges of the page to be convincing.

  • As honey sweetens / the mouth readily / a poem should make sense / right away.

    • Atakuri Molla,
    • "As Honey Sweetens" (16th c.), in Susie Tharu and K. Lalita, eds., Women Writing in India ()
  • Poetry is an act of distillation. It takes contingency samples, is selective. It telescopes time. It focuses what most often floods past us in a polite blur.

    • Diane Ackerman,
    • in Janet Sternburg, ed., The Writer on Her Work, vol. 2 ()
  • A poem records emotions and moods that lie beyond normal language, that can only be patched together and hinted at metaphorically.

    • Diane Ackerman,
    • in Janet Sternburg, ed., The Writer on Her Work, vol. 2 ()
  • It will have to be enough / to build a congregation of poems / from what is shrouded from view ...

  • Poetry reminds us of the truths about life and human nature that we knew all along, but forgot somehow because they weren't yet in memorable language.

  • ... poetry had everything to teach me about life.

  • Poems come from incomplete knowledge.

    • Diane Wakoski,
    • "With Words," The Motorcycle Betrayal Poems ()
  • Far from rhymes, laments, sea breezes, parrots ... we decree the death of sappy, sentimental folkloric literature. And to hell with hibiscus, frangipani, and bougainvillea. Martinican poetry will be cannibal or it will not be.

    • Suzanne Césaire,
    • in Daniel Maximin, ed., The Great Camouflage: Writings of Dissent (1941-1945) ()
  • But poetry is not to be lived, except for the few to whom it is more important than self-preservation.

  • ... if after I read a poem, the world looks like that poem for 24 hours or so, I'm sure it's a good one ...

  • I rarely think of poetry as something I make happen; it is more accurate to say that it happens to me. Like a summer storm, a house afire, or the coincidence of both on the same day.

  • ... we always cut our poetical theories to suit our talent ...

  • Poetry is a dumb Buddha who thinks a donkey is as important as a diamond.

  • Poems are taught as though the poet has put a secret key in his words and it is the reader's job to find it. Poems are not mystery novels.

  • Poets must be / Either men or women, more's the pity.

    • Michelene Wandor,
    • "Aurora Leigh" (1979), in Michelene Wandor, ed., Plays by Women ()
  • ... religion is poetry, — poetry is religion.

  • I talk in riddles. I'd rather speak plainly. / But some ways are still unmapped.

  • What is poetry? Do not enquire. The secret dies by prying. How does the heart beat? I fainted when I saw it on the screen, opening and closing like a flower ... Poetry is like this, it is life moving, terrible, vivid. Look the other way when you write, or you might faint.

    • Elizabeth Smart,
    • "Dig a Grave and Let Us Bury Our Mother" (1939), In the Meantime ()
  • Breathe-in experience, breathe-out poetry ...

  • The fear of poetry is an indication that we are cut off from our own reality.

  • Our poems will have failed if our readers are not brought by them beyond the poems.

  • The universe of poetry is the universe of emotional truth. Our material is in the way we feel and the way we remember.

  • Poetry has a small audience, but a large influence.

  • If there were no poetry on any day in the world, poetry would be invented that day. For there would be an intolerable hunger.

  • Outrage and possibility are in all the poems we know ...

  • ... the truth of a poem is its form and its content, its music and its meaning are the same.

  • The lavish words we write / Need a base on level stone. / ... / Oh Poetry-To-Come / Lay what is most exact / For the door-sill of your home.

  • Poetry is an intoxication.

    • Amable Tastu,
    • in Marcel Cordier, La Lorraine des Écrivains ()
  • Only poetry can address grief.

  • The poet should try to give his poem the quiet swiftness of flame, so that the reader will feel and not think while he is reading. But the thinking will come afterwards.

  • My theory is that poems are written because of a state of emotional irritation. It may be present for some time before the poet is conscious of what is tormenting him. The emotional irritation springs, probably, from subconscious combinations of partly forgotten thoughts and feelings. Coming together, like electrical currents in a thunder storm, they produce a poem. ... the poem is written to free the poet from an emotional burden.

  • It is my heart that makes my songs, not I.

  • ... with my singing I can make / A refuge for my spirit's sake, / A house of shining words, to be / My fragile immortality.

  • ... my poems covered the bare places in my childhood like the fine, new skin under a scab that hasn't yet fallen off completely.

  • For poetry, more than any other art, except music, has a compelling hold upon the spiritual side of life.

  • I write poetry in order to live more fully.

  • ... poetry's object is truth ...

    • Christine de Pisan,
    • 1405, in Charity Cannon Willard, Christine de Pizan: Her Life and Works ()
  • For knowledge and diligence / Are required to versify, / To conjoin and diversify / Many subjects various ...

    • Christine de Pisan,
    • 1404, in Thelma S. Fenster and Nadia Margolis, trans., The Book of the Duke of True Lovers ()
  • Poetry does not necessarily have to be beautiful to stick in the depths of our memory ...

  • ... the poet's mission: to forget reality, to promise the world wonders, to celebrate victories and deny death.

    • Colette,
    • "Journal à rebours" (1941), Looking Backwards ()
  • I tell poets that when a line just floats into your head, don't pay attention 'cause it probably has floated into somebody else's head.

  • Poetry is life distilled.

  • I always say that one's poetry is a solace to oneself and a nuisance to one's friends.

  • My publishers will make any kind of a beautiful book I design and send in to them, but ... For poetry they have less use than a rooster would have for skates.

    • Gene Stratton-Porter,
    • in Jeannette Porter Meehan, The Lady of the Limberlost: Life and Letters of Gene Stratton-Porter ()
  • Poetry is easier to learn than prose. Once you have learned it you can use it as a light and a laser. It shows up your true situation and it helps you cut through it.

  • I write poems, change and correct them, / And finally throw them away.

    • Chu Shu-chen,
    • "Alone" (1182), in Aliki Barnstone and Willis Barnstone, eds., A Book of Women Poets From Antiquity to Now ()
  • ... the attempt to control poetry, to subordinate it to extra-poetic ends, constitutes misuse.

  • ... we are far too used to the assumption that poetry and poets will be there when we want them, no matter how long they have been ignored, taken for granted, misused. After all, isn't poetry a form of prophecy, and aren't prophets known for their talent for flourishing in inhospitable deserts and other bleak surroundings? Maybe. But maybe not indefinitely.

  • ... poetry is where the language is renewed.

  • ... it's hard to forgive people who think they write poetry ...

  • Poetry can magnify experience.

  • The truth, it seems, is not just what you find when you open a door: it is itself a door, which the poet is always on the verge of going through.

    • Margaret Atwood,
    • "Adrienne Rich: Diving Into the Wreck," Second Words: Selected Critical Prose ()
  • I remain convinced that one of the greater risks in both life and poetry is succumbing to inertia. I hope to be continually startled, made uncomfortable and taught.

    • Debra Bokur,
    • in Stephen Corey and Warren Slesinger, eds., Spreading the Word: Editors on Poetry ()
  • The poem is always the last resort. In it the poet makes a world in little, and finds peace, even though, under complete focused emotion, the evocation be far more bitter than reality, or far more lovely.

    • Louise Bogan,
    • 1923, in Ruth Limmer, ed., Journey Around My Room ()
  • But it's silly to suggest the writing of poetry is something ethereal, a sort of soul-crashing, devastating emotional experience that wrings you. I have no fancy ideas about poetry. ... It doesn't come to you on the wings of a dove. It's something you have to work hard at.

    • Louise Bogan,
    • 1959, in Ruth Limmer, ed., Journey Around My Room ()
  • Poetry is often generations in advance of the thought of its time.

    • Louise Bogan,
    • "European Poetry" (1941), A Poet's Alphabet ()
  • I buy every book of verse that comes out. I don't read 'em, because I don't like poetry. But I buy 'em, because I believe that art should be encouraged.

  • My 'must-have' was poetry. From the first, life meant that to me. And, fortunately, poetry is not purchasable material, but an atmosphere in which every life may expand. I found it everywhere about me ...

  • Prose — it might be speculated — is discourse; poetry ellipsis. Prose is spoken aloud; poetry overheard. The one is presumably articulate and social, a shared language, the voice of 'communication'; the other is private, allusive, teasing, sly, idiosyncratic as the spider's delicate web, a kind of witchcraft unfathomable to ordinary minds.

    • Joyce Carol Oates,
    • "The Romance of Emily Dickinson's Poetry," (Woman) Writer: Occasions and Opportunities ()
  • If food is poetry is not poetry also food?

  • Poetry is a sleep-maker for that which sits up late in us listening for the footfall of the future on to-day's doorstep.

  • Poetry is like walking along a little, tiny, narrow ridge up on a precipice. You never know the next step, whether there's going to be a plunge. I think poetry is dangerous. There's nothing mild and predictable about poetry.

  • Out of the attempt to harmonize our actual life with our aspirations, our experience with our faith, we make poetry, — or, it may be, religion.

  • ... though we do not have many poets, we certainly have more than we deserve, for we deserve none at all. It is ourselves that we are hurting by our stupidity and ignorance of poetry ...

  • The poet is first and foremost an individual with a personal vision. His poem is not an event in social history nor a symptom of a literary movement; it is an assertion of the poet's singular identity.

  • ... one of the unconscious functions of poetry, and the chief conscious function of the interpreter of poetry, is to waken the dead.

  • Poetry can only be judged by the standard of the personality that is judging it. We cannot escape our own limitations. Each reader gets the poetry he deserves.

  • It is not by telling us about life that poetry enriches it; it is by being life.

  • How poetry comes to the poet is a mystery.

  • The raw material of poetry is human experience: all poetry is made from that.

  • ... this poem isn't for you / but for me / after all.

    • Joy Harjo,
    • "Your Phone Call at Eight a.m.," in Rayna Green, ed., That's What She Said ()
  • ... poetry can work with the / language, manipulate it so that it can embrace those / concepts, visions, times and places that the language / in and of itself can't do.

    • Joy Harjo,
    • in Joseph Bruchac, ed., Songs From This Earth on Turtle's Back ()
  • ... I believe that poets have to be inside their poems somewhere, or the poem won't work.

    • Joy Harjo,
    • in Laura Coltelli, ed., Winged Words: American Indian Writers Speak ()
  • All poets / understand the final uselessness of words. We are chords to / other chords to other chords, if we're lucky, to melody.

    • Joy Harjo,
    • "Bird," In Mad Love and War ()
  • ... a poem is like a wine glass in which you can hold up a little bit of reality and taste it.

    • Gwen Harwood,
    • in Jennifer Straus, Boundary Conditions: The Poetry of Gwen Harwood ()
  • Sometimes my poetry is an attempt to keep off existential terror; sometimes it is a grappling with philosophical problems; sometimes just fun.

    • Gwen Harwood,
    • 1980, in Jennifer Straus, Boundary Conditions: The Poetry of Gwen Harwood ()
  • If by some chance I wrote / a fine immortal poem / it would have a mortal theme.

    • Gwen Harwood,
    • "Oyster Cove Pastorals," The Lion's Bride ()
  • I would rather read poetry than eat my dinner any day. It has been so all my life.

  • The reason modern poetry is difficult is so that the poet's wife cannot understand it.

  • There is no end to grief. Nor no end to poetry.

    • Babette Deutsch,
    • "Lament for the Makers: 1964," The Collected Poems of Babette Deutsch ()
  • Who, except the poets, reads poetry?

  • The logic of the poem is not ours.

  • I believe in solitude broken like bread by poetry.

  • Poetry cannot be explained, it must be lived.

  • Poetry colors beings, objects, landscapes and sensations with a kind of new and particular light, which is in fact that of the poet's emotions.

  • All the world can be found in poetry. All you need to see and hear. All the moments, good and bad, joyous and sad.

  • You don't choose poetry. You're a poet, and you're either working at it or you're going nuts. Why do you breathe? I'm not real unless I've written recently. I can feel myself slipping away.

  • All verse is occasional verse.

  • Art is not self-expression while, for me, 'confessional poetry' is almost a contradiction in terms.

  • Poetry is a string of words that parades without a permit.

    • Linda Hogan,
    • in Janet Sternburg, ed., The Writer on Her Work, vol. 2 ()
  • ... poetry ... is another way to be hurled straight into the heart of God.

  • ... I lived with the mental restlessness of wanting to write, the inner nauseas of the half-finished, the great releases of the completed poem.

  • The real thing creates its own poetry.

  • ... for what is the gift of the poet and the artist except to see the sights which others cannot see and to hear the sounds that others cannot hear?

    • Ouida,
    • "The Nürnberg Stove," A Dog of Flanders, the Nürnberg Stove, and Other Stories ()
  • My verses are my diary. My poetry is a poetry of proper names.

    • Marina Tsvetaeva,
    • 1922, in Claudia Roth Pierpont, "The Rage of Aphrodite," The New Yorker ()
  • In this most Christian of all worlds / The poet's a Jew.

    • Marina Tsvetaeva,
    • "Poem of the End" (1924), in David McDuff, ed., Selected Poems ()
  • In the Eskimo language, the words for 'to breathe' and 'to make a poem' are the same.

    • Lyn Lifshin,
    • in Jack Heffron, ed., The Best Writing on Writing, vol. 2 ()
  • if i cud ever write a poem as beautiful / as u, little 2/yr/old/brotha, / poetry wud go out of bizness.

    • Sonia Sanchez,
    • "to P.J. (2 yrs old who sed write a poem for me in Portland, Oregon)," It's a New Day ()
  • Poetry is ... / a sort of answer I feel compelled to give / to my own life.

    • Furugh Farrukhzad,
    • in Elizabeth Warnock Fernea and Basima Qattan Bezirgan, eds., Middle Eastern Muslim Women Speak ()
  • Poetry is / powerless as grass. / How then should it defend us? / unless by strengthening / our fierce and obstinate centres.

  • Herman has taken to writing poetry. You need not tell anyone, for you know how such things get around.

  • When something is too beautiful or too terrible or even too funny for words, then it is time for poetry.

  • ... we have let rhetoric do the job of poetry.

    • Cherríe Moraga,
    • "La Güera," in Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa, eds., This Bridge Called My Back ()
  • For a poet, making poems is a way of viewing the world, being in the world, breathing.

  • Poetry ... is the music and painting of the mind.

    • Sonia Orwell,
    • in Hilary Spurling, The Girl From the Fiction Department ()
  • Love without Poetry's refining Aid / Is a dull Bargain, and but coarsely made ...

    • Anne Finch,
    • "A Letter to Mr. F. Now Earl of W." (1689), Miscellany Poems, Written by a Lady ()
  • Poetry is the most mistaught subject in any school because we teach poetry by form and not by content.

    • Nikki Giovanni,
    • in Claudia Tate, ed., Black Women Writers at Work ()
  • What was the function of poetry if not to improve the petty, cautious minds of evasive children?

  • Poetry is the most concentrated form of literature; it is the most emotionalized and powerful way in which thought can be presented ...

  • I do not suppose that anyone not a poet can realize the agony of creating a poem. Every nerve, even every muscle, seems strained to the breaking point. The poem will not be denied; to refuse to write it would be a greater torture. It tears its way out of the brain, splintering and breaking its passage, and leaves that organ in the state of a jelly-fish when the task is done.

    • Amy Lowell,
    • "A Memoir," in Louis Untermeyer, ed., The Complete Poetical Works of Amy Lowell ()
  • I never deny poems when they come; whatever I am doing, whatever I am writing, I lay it aside and attend to the arriving poem.

    • Amy Lowell,
    • "The Process of Making Poetry," Poetry and Poets: Essays ()
  • What are poems but words / Set edgewise up like children's blocks / To build a structure no one can inhabit.

    • Amy Lowell,
    • "One! Two! Three!" Ballads for Sale ()
  • I did not come here to talk poetry and discontent, some people think them synonymous.

  • Oh, we who know thee know we know thee not, / Thou Soul of Beauty, thou Essential Grace! / Yet undeterred by baffled speech and thought, / The heart stakes all upon thy hidden face.

  • What would they say if they knew / I sit for two months on six lines / of poetry?

    • Lorine Niedecker,
    • "In the great snowfall before the bomb," The Granite Pail ()
  • All longed-for poems have the opaque glow / Of unrubbed quartz half hidden under snow.

  • As a direct line to human feeling, empathic experience, genuine language and detail, poetry is everything that headline news is not. It takes us inside situations, helps us imagine life from more than one perspective, honors imagery and metaphor — those great tools of thought — and deepens our confidence in a meaningful world.

  • I take your trees, / And your breeze, / Your greenness, / Your cleanness, / Some of your shade, some of your sky, / Some of your calm as I go by ...

    • Helen Hoyt,
    • "Ellis Park," in Harriet Monroe and Alice Corbin Henderson, eds., The New Poetry ()
  • ... it is as unseeing to ask what is the use of poetry as it would be to ask what is the use of religion.

  • In the Augustan age ... poetry was ... the sister of architecture; with the romantics, and their heightened vowel-sense, resulting in different melodic lines, she became the sister of music; in the present day, she appears like the sister of horticulture, each poem growing according to the law of its own nature ...

  • Poetry is, indeed, the deification of reality ...

  • If certain critics and poetasters had their way, 'Ordinary Piety' and its child, Dullness, would be the masters of poetry.

  • All great poetry is dipped in the dyes of the heart ...

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • in Richard Thruelsen and John Kobler, eds., Adventures of the Mind, 1st series ()
  • Poetry ennobles the heart and the eyes, and unveils the meaning of all things upon which the heart and the eyes dwell. It discovers the secret rays of the universe, and restores to us forgotten paradises.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • "Of What Use Is Poetry?" in Reader's Digest ()
  • My poems are hymns of praise to the glory of life.

  • Isn't it curious how one has only to open a book of verse to realise immediately that it was written by a very fine poet, or else that it was written by someone who is not a poet at all. In the case of the former, the lines, the images, though they are inherent in each other, leap up and give one this shock of delight. In the case of the latter, they lie flat on the page, never having lived.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • 1939, in John Lehmann and Derek Parker, eds., Selected Letters ()
  • I may say that I think greed about poetry is the only permissible greed — it is, indeed, unavoidable.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • 1955, in John Lehmann and Derek Parker, eds., Selected Letters ()
  • The poet speaks to all men of that other life of theirs that they have smothered and forgotten.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • "Rhyme and Reason," in Elizabeth Salter and Allanah Harper, eds., Edith Sitwell: Fire of the Mind ()
  • Surely everyone who writes poetry would agree that this is part of it — a doomed but urgent wish to express the inexpressible.

  • ... my verse, / I can't get away from it, / I've tried to ...

    • H.D.,
    • "Red Rose and a Beggar" (1960), Hermetic Definition ()
  • Poetry has opened all my pores, / And pain as colorless as gas / moves in.

    • Linda Pastan,
    • "After Reading Nelly Sachs," A Perfect Circle of Sun ()
  • And that is the key, the surprise and delight, the fierce joy of writing poetry — the poem is, in the end, a revelation to the poet.

  • One of the uses of poetry — one says it to oneself in distressing circumstances, ... or when one has to wait at railway stations, or when one cannot get to sleep at night.

  • ... poets are privileged to utter more than they can always quite explain, bringing up from the mind's unplumbed depths tokens of the nature of the world we carry within us.

    • Vernon Lee,
    • in C. Anstruther-Thomson, Art and Man ()
  • Grandfather / advised me: / Learn a trade / I learned / to sit at desk / and condense / No layoff / from this / condensery.

  • [Poetry is] (1) a suitcase of invisible mementos, (2) the words we use to explore our sense of wonder, and (3) an enchanting way to trick yourself into being present.

  • Your poems are like God's birds; they fly into people's hearts.

  • Poetry is the connecting link between body and mind.

  • I guess the quality that makes one write poetry keeps one from selling it.

  • ... when a poem says something that could not have been said in any other way, in music, prose, sculpture, movement or paint, then it is poetry.

  • One way of ending the poem is to turn it back on itself, like a serpent with its tail in its mouth.

  • Poetry and preaching do not go well together; when the preacher mounts the pulpit the poet usually goes away.

  • ... poetry is the sung voice of accurate perception.

  • The materials of true poetry are always humble, absolutely idiosyncratic, the autobiographical tatters that, in gifted hands, are made into the memoir that fits us all.

  • The blood jet is poetry / There is no stopping it.

  • She loved poetry / sometimes I thought that she would take the words / and eat them carefully as filaments of saffron.

  • What's important about poetry in the context of leadership is that most of the time, power has to do with dominance. But poetry is never about dominance. Poetry is powerful but it cannot even aspire to dominate anyone. It means making a connection. That's what it means.

    • June Jordan,
    • in Julie Quiroz, "Poetry Is a Political Act," Colorlines ()
  • Poetry is a political act because it involves telling the truth.

    • June Jordan,
    • in Julie Quiroz, "Poetry Is a Political Act," Colorlines ()
  • ... I didn't write my poems because I wanted to, they were wrung from me. I had to write them.

  • I have yet to know the use of a poem the way I know the use of a hammer. Yet I feel a poem is surely a tool.

    • Karen Brodine,
    • "Politics of Women Writing," in The Second Wave ()
  • For me, personally, a poem is a thing that sings. ... I see some of them have been set to music, but that proves nothing. Musical words seldom set well: they have the tune in them already, and will not take another.

  • The poet's job is to put into words those feelings we all have that are so deep, so important, and yet so difficult to name, to tell the truth in such a beautiful way that people cannot live without it.

  • My ear is not working, my poetry ear. I can't write a line that doesn't sound like pots and pans falling out of the cupboard.

    • Jane Kenyon,
    • in Alice Mattison, "'Let It Grow in the Dark Like a Mushroom': Writing With Jane Kenyon," Michigan Quarterly Review ()
  • ... a bit of rhyme was a choicer draught to me than a glass of an old vintage.

  • These poems / they are things that I do / in the dark / reaching for you / whoever you are / and / are you ready?

    • June Jordan,
    • "These Poems," Directed by Desire: The Collected Poems of June Jordan ()
  • Although they are / Only breath, words / which I command / are immortal.

    • Sappho,
    • 6th c. BCE, in Mary Barnard, trans., Sappho: A New Translation ()
  • For me, the poetry in a work is that which makes visible the invisible.

  • Do not repeat what someone else has said, / Use your own words and your imagination. / But it may be that poetry itself / Is simply one magnificent quotation.

  • Poems are my link with the times, with the new life of my people.

  • Whenever I get lost in a novel I just throw a poem in. What it does is flare up, and it's so illuminated that I'm able to see where to go. I write between these illuminations.

    • Kate Braverman,
    • in Mickey Pearlman and Katherine Usher Henderson, A Voice of One's Own: Conversations With America's Writing Women ()
  • Stupid men, who accuse / women without reason: / you've never noticed, I suppose, / it's you who taught the lesson. / If with an upsurge of desire / you storm her disapproval, / why would you have her be so good, / inciting her to evil? / You wear her last defenses down, / and then you gravely tell her / she's frivolous, though it was you / who caused harm to befall her.

  • Poetry is eating all my problems.

    • Anonymous,
    • fourth-grade girl, in Naomi Shihab Nye, O: The Oprah Magazine ()
  • I like to use simple words, but in a complicated way.

  • Poetry. He liked the word — its smallness, its density, the way it rose up at the end as if it had wings.

  • ... clarity need not be equivalent to / readability. How readable is the world?

    • Rae Armantrout,
    • in Christopher Beach, ed., Artifice and Indeterminacy ()
  • If there is anything I love most, in the poems I love, it is the audible braiding of that bravery, that essential empty-handedness, and that willingness to be taken by surprise, all in one voice.

    • Jorie Graham,
    • "At the Border," in Claudia Rankine and Juliana Spahr, eds., American Women Poets in the 21st Century ()
  • I want a poem which is made of compression, passion, precision, symmetry, & disruption.

    • Lucy Brock-Broido,
    • "Myself a Kangaroo Among the Beauties," in Claudia Rankine and Juliana Spahr, eds., American Women Poets in the 21st Century ()
  • Poets become such / By scorning nothing.

  • The act of making poetry is an act of hope.

  • Literature is the finest thing humankind has created. Poetry is the beating heart of literature, the highest concentration of all that is best in the world and in people. It is the only true food for the soul.

  • Of all things of thought, poetry is the closest to thought, and a poem is less a thing than any other work of art.

  • A good poem is like a bouillon cube. It’s concentrated, you carry it around with you, and it nourishes you when you need it.

    • Rita Dove,
    • in Jack E. White, "Rooms of Their Own," Time ()
  • Poetry is the purest of the language arts. It’s the tightest cage, and if you can get to sing in that cage it’s really really wonderful.

  • Poems are angels / come to bring you / the letter you wdn't / sign for / earlier, when it was / delivered / by yr life.

  • Poetry can bring rain & make the crops grow. It smoothes the path for the traveler and brings sleep to the feverish child.

  • Poets speak truth when no one else can or will. That's why the hunger for poetry grows when the world grows dark. When repression grows, when people speak in whispers or not at all, they turn to poetry to find out what's going on.

  • Words sung to a tune make a song: when the words are the tune, you have a poem.

  • I’d say poetry wants to be contagious ...