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Quotations about Poetry

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Poetry is just the evidence of life.  If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.  ~Leonard Cohen

Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary.  ~Kahlil Gibran

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.
~Mark Strand, "Eating Poetry," Reasons for Moving, 1968

There's no money in poetry, but then there's no poetry in money, either.  ~Robert Graves, 1962 interview on BBC-TV, based on a very similar statement he overheard around 1955

Poetry is what gets lost in translation.  ~Robert Frost

Imaginary gardens with real toads in them.  ~Marianne Moore's definition of poetry, "Poetry," Collected Poems, 1951

A poem is never finished, only abandoned.  ~Paul Valéry

He who draws noble delights from sentiments of poetry is a true poet, though he has never written a line in all his life.  ~George Sand, 1851

Always be a poet, even in prose.  ~Charles Baudelaire, "My Heart Laid Bare," Intimate Journals, 1864

Poets are soldiers that liberate words from the steadfast possession of definition.  ~Eli Khamarov, The Shadow Zone

Poetry is the journal of the sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air.  Poetry is a search for syllables to shoot at the barriers of the unknown and the unknowable.  Poetry is a phantom script telling how rainbows are made and why they go away.  ~Carl Sandburg, Poetry Considered

Poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted.  ~Percy Shelley, A Defence of Poetry, 1821

Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.  ~Plato, Ion

Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry.  ~W.B. Yeats

Poetry is to philosophy what the Sabbath is to the rest of the week.  ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827

The distinction between historian and poet is not in the one writing prose and the other verse... the one describes the thing that has been, and the other a kind of thing that might be.  Hence poetry is something more philosophic and of graver import than history, since its statements are of the nature rather of universals, whereas those of history are singulars.  ~Aristotle, On Poetics

Poetry is a packsack of invisible keepsakes.  ~Carl Sandburg

Poetry should... should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a remembrance.  ~John Keats

A poet can survive everything but a misprint.  ~Oscar Wilde

To see the Summer Sky
Is Poetry, though never in a Book it lie -
True Poems flee.
~Emily Dickinson

The poet is in the end probably more afraid of the dogmatist who wants to extract the message from the poem and throw the poem away than he is of the sentimentalist who says, "Oh, just let me enjoy the poem."  ~Robert Penn Warren, "The Themes of Robert Frost," Hopwood Lecture, 1947

A poem begins with a lump in the throat.  ~Robert Frost

Poetry is the key to the hieroglyphics of Nature.  ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827

ever been kidnapped
by a poet
if i were a poet
i'd kidnap you
put you in my phrases and meter....
~Yolande Cornelia "Nikki" Giovanni, Jr., "kidnap poem"

Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.  ~Percy Byshe Shelley

A prose writer gets tired of writing prose, and wants to be a poet.  So he begins every line with a capital letter, and keeps on writing prose.  ~Samuel McChord Crothers, "Every Man's Natural Desire to Be Somebody Else" The Dame School of Experience, 1920

Poetry is man's rebellion against being what he is.  ~James Branch Cabell

A poet is an unhappy being whose heart is torn by secret sufferings, but whose lips are so strangely formed that when the sighs and the cries escape them, they sound like beautiful music... and then people crowd about the poet and say to him:  "Sing for us soon again;" that is as much as to say, "May new sufferings torment your soul."  ~Soren Kierkegaard

"Therefore" is a word the poet must not know.  ~André Gide

The poem is the point at which our strength gave out.  ~Richard Rosen

It is the job of poetry to clean up our word-clogged reality by creating silences around things.  ~Stephen Mallarme

The true poet is all the time a visionary and whether with friends or not, as much alone as a man on his death bed.  ~W.B. Yeats

If the author had said "Let us put on appropriate galoshes," there could, of course, have been no poem.  ~Author Unknown

Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by reason.  ~Novalis

The smell of ink is intoxicating to me - others may have wine, but I have poetry.  ~Abbe Yeux-verdi

There is poetry as soon as we realize that we possess nothing.  ~John Cage

Only the poet has any right to be sorry for the poor, if he has anything to spare when he has thought of the dull, commonplace rich.  ~William Bolitho

Who can tell the dancer from the dance?  ~William Butler Yeats

Most painters have painted themselves.  So have most poets: not so palpably indeed, but more assiduously.  Some have done nothing else.  ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827

Poetry is the language in which man explores his own amazement.  ~Christopher Fry

If Galileo had said in verse that the world moved, the inquisition might have let him alone.  ~Thomas Hardy

The poet doesn't invent.  He listens.  ~Jean Cocteau

Everything one invents is true, you may be perfectly sure of that.  Poetry is as precise as geometry.  ~Gustave Flaubert

Wanted: a needle swift enough to sew this poem into a blanket.  ~Charles Simic

The only problem
with Haiku is that you just
get started and then
~Roger McGough

To have great poets there must be great audiences too.  ~Walt Whitman

Even when poetry has a meaning, as it usually has, it may be inadvisable to draw it out.... Perfect understanding will sometimes almost extinguish pleasure.  ~A.E. Housman

Perhaps no person can be a poet, or can even enjoy poetry, without a certain unsoundness of mind.  ~Thomas Babington Macaulay

Poetry is the revelation of a feeling that the poet believes to be interior and personal which the reader recognizes as his own.  ~Salvatore Quasimodo

You can't write poetry on the computer.  ~Quentin Tarantino

Each man carries within him the soul of a poet who died young.  ~Sainte-Beuve, Portraits littéraires, 1862

Poets are mysterious, but a poet when all is said is not much more mysterious than a banker.  ~Allen Tate

Browsing the dim back corner
Of a musty antique shop
Opened an old book of poetry
Angels flew out from the pages
I caught the whiff of a soul
The ink seemed fresh as today
Was that voices whispering?
The tree of the paper still grows.
~Pixie Foudre

You will find poetry nowhere unless you bring some of it with you.  ~Joseph Joubert

God is the perfect poet.  ~Robert Browning

Science is for those who learn; poetry, for those who know.  ~Joseph Roux, Meditations of a Parish Priest

Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.  ~Carl Sandburg

The worst fate of a poet is to be admired without being understood.  ~Jean Cocteau, Le Rappel á l'ordre, 1926

Poetry is life distilled.  ~Gwendolyn Brooks

Poetry is thoughts that breathe, and words that burn.  ~Thomas Gray

He lives the poetry that he cannot write.  The others write the poetry that they dare not realise.  ~Oscar Wilde

Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.  ~Robert Frost

You don't have to suffer to be a poet.  Adolescence is enough suffering for anyone.  ~John Ciardi, Simmons Review, Fall 1962

Poetry is all that is worth remembering in life.  ~William Hazlitt

A poet's autobiography is his poetry.  Anything else is just a footnote.  ~Yevgeny Yentushenko, The Sole Survivor, 1982

A poem is true if it hangs together.  Information points to something else.  A poem points to nothing but itself.  ~E.M. Forster, Two Cheers for Democracy, 1951

Poetry is not always words.  ~Audrey Foris

Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.  ~T.S. Eliot, Dante, 1920

Poetry is the art of substantiating shadows.  ~Edmund Burke

Poets are like baseball pitchers.  Both have their moments.  The intervals are the tough things.  ~Robert Frost

Poetry, like the moon, does not advertise anything.  ~William Blissett

The poet sees things as they look.  Is this having a faculty the less? or a sense the more?  ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827

Happiness is sharing a bowl of cherries and a book of poetry with a shade tree.  He doesn't eat much and doesn't read much, but listens well and is a most gracious host.  ~Astrid Alauda

Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting.  ~Robert Frost

A poet looks at the world the way a man looks at a woman.  ~Wallace Stevens, Opus Posthumous, 1957

We don't read and write poetry because it's cute.  We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race.  And the human race is filled with passion.  And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life.  But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.  Dead Poet's Society

A sold poem loses half its meaning.  ~Glade Byron Addams

Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality.  But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.  ~T.S. Eliot, Tradition and the Individual Talent, 1919

If conditions aren't right
The poem won't come out
It will sit inside and stew
And emerge a different beast.
~Ed Northstrum

Each memorable verse of a true poet has two or three times the written content.  ~Alfred de Musset, Le Poète déchu, 1839

Poetry is ordinary language raised to the nth power.  Poetry is boned with ideas, nerved and blooded with emotions, all held together by the delicate, tough skin of words.  ~Paul Engle, New York Times, 17 February 1957

I don't create poetry, I create myself, for me my poems are a way to me.  ~Edith Södergran

There is as much difference between good poetry and fine verses, as between the smell of a flower-garden and of a perfumer's shop.  ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827

Mr Witwould:  "Pray, madam, do you pin up your hair with all your letters?  I find I must keep copies."
Mrs Millamant:  "Only with those in verse.... I never pin up my hair with prose."
~William Congreve, The Way of the World

I would as soon write free verse as play tennis with the net down.  ~Robert Frost, 1935

Poetry is not a civilizer, rather the reverse, for great poetry appeals to the most primitive instincts.  ~Robinson Jeffers

Poets are like magicians, searching for magical phrases to pull rabbits out of people's souls.  ~Glade Byron Addams

He who writes prose builds his temple to Fame in rubble; he who writes verses builds it in granite.  ~Edward Bulwer-Lytton

The word "Verse" is used here as the term most convenient for expressing, and without pedantry, all that is involved in the consideration of rhythm, rhyme, meter, and versification... the subject is exceedingly simple; one tenth of it, possibly may be called ethical; nine tenths, however, appertains to the mathematics.  ~Edgar Allan Poe

The poem... is a little myth of man's capacity of making life meaningful.  And in the end, the poem is not a thing we see - it is, rather, a light by which we may see - and what we see is life.  ~Robert Penn Warren, Saturday Review, 22 March 1958

A poem should not mean
But be.
~Archibald MacLeish, Ars Poetica, 1926

Your prayer can be poetry, and poetry can be your prayer.  ~Noelani Day

It is a sad fact about our culture that a poet can earn much more money writing or talking about his art than he can by practicing it.  ~W.H. Auden

Breathe-in experience,
breathe-out poetry.
~Muriel Rukeyser

I grew up in this town, my poetry was born between the hill and the river, it took its voice from the rain, and like the timber, it steeped itself in the forests.  ~Pablo Neruda, quoted in Wall Street Journal,, 14 November 1985

You can tear a poem apart to see what makes it tick.... You're back with the mystery of having been moved by words.  The best craftsmanship always leaves holes and gaps... so that something that is not in the poem can creep, crawl, flash or thunder in.  ~Dylan Thomas, Poetic Manifesto, 1961

Poets aren't very useful
Because they aren't consumeful or very produceful.
~Ogden Nash

If you got to talking to most cowboys, they'd admit they write 'em.  I think some of the meanest, toughest sons of bitches around write poetry.  ~Ross Knox

What is a Professor of Poetry?  How can poetry be professed?  ~W.H. Auden

Children and lunatics cut the Gordian knot which the poet spends his life patiently trying to untie.  ~Jean Cocteau

It's impossible to write poetry in front of the TV
Almost impossible not to write in the sun
In the woods, every breath is a poem
The words form in the sunbeams,
to those who look for them.
~Daisey Verlaef

Mathematics and Poetry are... the utterance of the same power of imagination, only that in the one case it is addressed to the head, in the other, to the heart.  ~Thomas Hill

The crown of literature is poetry.  It is its end and aim.  It is the sublimest activity of the human mind.  It is the achievement of beauty and delicacy.  The writer of prose can only step aside when the poet passes.  ~W. Somerset Maugham

A true poet does not bother to be poetical.  Nor does a nursery gardener scent his roses.  ~Jean Cocteau

Everything in creation has its appointed painter or poet and remains in bondage like the princess in the fairy tale 'til its appropriate liberator comes to set it free.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

A poet must leave traces of his passage, not proof.  ~Rene Char

[A poem] begins in delight and ends in wisdom.  ~Robert Frost, "The Figure a Poem Makes," Collected Poems of Robert Frost, 1939

Poetry comes with anger, hunger and dismay; it does not often visit groups of citizens sitting down to be literary together, and would appal them if it did.  ~Christopher Morley, John Mistletoe

The poet, as everyone knows, must strike his individual note sometime between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five.  He may hold it a long time, or a short time, but it is then that he must strike it or never.  School and college have been conducted with the almost express purpose of keeping him busy with something else till the danger of his ever creating anything is past.  ~Robert Frost

[P]oets are masters of us ordinary men, in knowledge of the mind, because they drink at streams which we have not yet made accessible to science.  ~Sigmund Freud

Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words.  ~Edgar Allan Poe

To be a poet is a condition, not a profession.  ~Robert Frost

If Painting be Poetry's sister, she can only be a sister Anne, who will see nothing but a flock of sheep, while the other bodies forth a troop of dragoons with drawn sabres and white-plumed helmets.  ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827

Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits.  ~Carl Sandburg

Poetry is the art of uniting pleasure with truth.  ~Samuel Johnson

Our poetry in the eighteenth century was prose; our prose in the seventeenth, poetry.  ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827

I've written some poetry I don't understand myself.  ~Carl Sandburg

The poet is a liar who always speaks the truth.  ~Jean Cocteau

Publishing a volume of verse is like dropping a rose-petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo.  ~Don Marquis

Come voyeur my poems
Feel free, I feel free.
~Carrie Latet

No poems can please for long or live that are written by water-drinkers.  ~Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus), Satires

The poetry of the earth is never dead.  ~John Keats

A poet dares be just so clear and no clearer.... He unzips the veil from beauty, but does not remove it.  A poet utterly clear is a trifle glaring.  ~E.B. White

The poet... may be used as a barometer, but let us not forget that he is also part of the weather.  ~Lionel Trilling, The Liberal Imagination, 1950

If you've got a poem within you today, I can guarantee you a tomorrow.  ~The Quote Garden

Poetry is nobody's business except the poet's, and everybody else can fuck off.  ~Philip Larkin

Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.  ~Rita Dove

Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.  ~G.K. Chesterton

A poet's work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep.  ~Salman Rushdie

Poetry is plucking at the heartstrings, and making music with them.  ~Dennis Gabor

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Last modified 2008 Nov 30 Sun 20:52 PST

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