“I dig old books.”
Quotations about Poetry, Poems, & Poets
There is not a particle of life which does not bear poetry within it. ~Gustave Flaubert (1821–1880)
One must forgive a large self-consciousness to a great poet. We cannot deny a certain Godlikeness to one who creates men from his brain. ~Marie Dubsky, Freifrau von Ebner-Eschenbach (1830–1916), translated by Mrs Annis Lee Wister, 1882
The poet illuminates us by the flames in which his being passes away. ~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847)
To see the Summer Sky
Is Poetry, though never in a Book it lie –
True Poems flee –
~Emily Dickinson, c.1879
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
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 Bysshe 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
The world is full of Poetry—the air
Is living with its spirit; and the waves
Dance to the music of its melodies,
And sparkle in its brightness. Earth is veiled,
And mantled with its beauty; and the walls,
That close the universe, with crystal, in,
Are eloquent with voices, that proclaim
The unseen glories of immensity...
~James G. Percival, "Poetry," c.1822
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." ~Søren Kierkegaard
I was condemned to poetry. I was a dreamer: nose in a book, head in the clouds. ~Fred Chappell, Look Back All the Green Valley, 1999 #infj
There's so much prose in life that now and then,
A tender song of pity stirs the heart,
A simple lay of love from fevered pen,
Makes in some soul the unshed tear-drops start.
Sing, poets! sing for aye your sweetest strain,
For life without its poetry were vain!
~S.J. Adair Fitz-Gerald (1859–1925), The Zankiwank & The Bletherwitch, 1896
"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.~Steven Mallarmé
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
A poet carrying a thought from his mind into expression is like a child bearing a bucket brimming with water from the well to the house,—part of the contents is spilled. ~Austin O'Malley (1858–1932), Thoughts of a Recluse, 1898
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
Each memorable verse of a true poet has two or three times the written content. ~Alfred de Musset, Le Poète déchu, 1839
There is often as much poetry between the lines of a poem as in those lines. ~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847)
Poetry,—the language of the Imagination and the Passions,—the oldest and most beauteous offspring of Literature. ~Frederick Hinde, Poetry, a lecture delivered in London on the evening of April 8, 1858
The courage of the poet is to keep ajar the door that leads to madness. ~Christopher Morley, Inward Ho!
It is vain for the sober man to knock at poesy's door. ~Plato
No poems can please for long or live that are written by water-drinkers. ~Horace, Satires
It is the hour to be drunken! Be drunken, if you would not be martyred slaves of Time; be drunken continually! With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you will. ~Charles Baudelaire (1821–1867), "Be Drunken," translated from French by Arthur Symons
The smell of ink is intoxicating to me — others may have wine, but I have poetry. ~Terri Guillemets, "Inkdreaming," 1994
These poets, who get drunk with sun, and weep
Because the night or a woman's face is fair...
~Amy Levy, "A Minor Poet," c.1884
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
A poet is a painter of the soul. ~Isaac D'Israeli
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
What better can the poets do
With sunsets? ponder every line
And write a labored verse or two,
Beflowered with 'gorgeous,' 'grand,' 'divine'?
~Hannah R. Hudson, "Word-Painting," Poems, 1874 [alternatively published as "Poet and Painter"
Poetry is the impish attempt to paint the color of the wind. ~Maxwell Bodenheim
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
A poet swallows life and exhales painted words. ~Terri Guillemets
All-pervading spirit to the ear
Blended with the movings of the soul
~James G. Percival, "Poetry," c.1822 [a little altered
Poetry! poetry! the emptiest of all words, or the most significant,—the most frivolous of all things, or the most important. ~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847)
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
All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling. ~Oscar Wilde
In poetry and in eloquence the beautiful and grand must spring from the commonplace.... All that remains for us is to be new while repeating the old, and to be ourselves in becoming the echo of the whole world. ~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847)
Poets have forgotten that the first lesson of literature, no less than of life, is the learning how to burn your own smoke; that the way to be original is to be healthy; that the fresh color, so delightful in all good writing, is won by escaping from the fixed air of self into the brisk atmosphere of universal sentiments; and that to make the common marvellous, as if it were a revelation, is the test of genius. ~James Russell Lowell, "Chaucer," 1870
Then, in what beauteous dress will Poetry oft clothe or decorate what in Prose is but too frequently flat and commonplace. ~Frederick Hinde, Poetry, a lecture delivered in London on the evening of April 8, 1858
Poetry slips a silk dress over naked prose. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Seven Seventy Seven Sensations, 1897
I am looking for a poem that says Everything so I don't have to write anymore. ~Tukaram
The only problem
with Haiku is that you just
get started and then
Perhaps no person can be a poet, or can even enjoy poetry, without a certain unsoundness of mind, if anything which gives so much pleasure can be called unsoundness.... Truth, indeed, is essential to poetry, but it is the truth of madness. The reasonings are just, but the premises are false. After the first suppositions have been made, everything out to be consistent; but those first suppositions require a degree of credulity which almost amounts to a partial and temporary derangement of the intellect. ~Thomas Babington Macaulay
'T is not the chime and flow of words, that move
In measured file, and metrical array...
Nor all the pleasing artifice of rhyme...
'T is a mysterious feeling, which combines
Man with the world around him, in a chain
Woven of flowers, and dipped in sweetness, till
He taste the high communion of his thoughts,
With all existences, in earth and heaven,
That meet him in the charm of grace and power.
~James G. Percival, "Poetry," c.1822
'T is not the noisy babbler, who displays,
In studied phrase, and ornate epithet,
And rounded period, poor and vapid thoughts,
Which peep from out the cumbrous ornaments,
That overload their littleness. Its words
Are few, but deep and solemn; and they break
Fresh from the fount of feeling...
~James G. Percival, "Poetry," c.1822
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. ~Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve, Portraits littéraires, 1862 [Alternate: In most men there exists a poet who died young, whom the man survived.
Poets are mysterious, but a poet when all is said is not much more mysterious than a banker. ~Allen Tate
The sublimity of poetry, you see, lies in the fact that it does not take an educated person to understand it and to love it. On the contrary. The educated do not understand it, and generally they despise it, because they have too much pride. To love poetry it is enough to have a soul,—a little soul, naked, like a flower. Poets speak to the souls of the simple, of the sad, of the sick. And that is why they are eternal. Do you know that, when one has sensibility, one is always something of a poet? ~Octave Mirbeau, A Chambermaid's Diary / Le Journal d'une Femme de Chambre, 1900, translated from the French by Benjamin R. Tucker
Before men ever wrote in clay they cast their words in verse and line, rhythmbound in poets' minds, defying time and age. ~David J. Beard (1947–2016), tweet, 2009 June 12th
Poetry is the dancing skeleton of bare-bones prose. ~Terri Guillemets, "Reading a poem is kissing a rose," 2006
You will find poetry nowhere unless you bring some of it with you. ~Joseph Joubert
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
A poem is never finished, only abandoned. ~Paul Valéry
Poetry is never abandoned, it is only remixed. ~James Schwartz
"Most poems are never finished," (I was defensive). He sighed: "No, most poems are never started." ~Dr. SunWolf, professorsunwolf.com
Poetry is reverie on paper. ~Terri Guillemets, "Quiet time with my soul," 1998
The poet needs to admire; he is in a merely human sense the high priest of the true, the beautiful, the grand. On whatever side he spreads his wings it is his mission to bear the universal homage to these worthy objects, or to some ideas of them. ~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847)
The worst fate of a poet is to be admired without being understood. ~Jean Cocteau, Le Rappel á l'ordre, 1926
It's easier to quote poets than to read them. ~Allison Barrows
So the poetic feeling needs no words
To give it utterance; but it swells, and glows,
And revels in the ecstasies of soul,
And sits at banquet with celestial forms...
~James G. Percival, "Poetry," c.1822
[T]he poetic soul... a living lyre, it only lives enough to echo, and all that it has of life it pours out, and spends in song: the inspiring tripod which the poet ascends, at once unites him to, and separates him from, society. ~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847)
Poetry is life distilled. ~Gwendolyn Brooks
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
Look! over yonder
what a beautiful
field of wildpoems
~Terri Guillemets, "Reverie art," 1992
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
Poetry is the tunnel at the end of the light. ~J. Patrick Lewis, www.jpatricklewis.com
A poet's autobiography is his poetry. Anything else is just a footnote. ~Yevgeny Yentushenko, The Sole Survivor, 1982
If Galileo had said in verse that the world moved, the Inquisition might have let him alone. ~Thomas Hardy
"What are you going to read—something of Tennyson?"... And with a honeysuckle that Margaret remembered, for a bookmark, he found the place he wanted, and opened at "Elaine," that loveliest of the idyls, and began to read.... It was a charmed hour. Lawrence Brook was a fine reader, and delighted in poetry. It touched his own heart, and had power over him, and so he received the power himself to touch all other hearts the same. Even the first three lines came to Margaret as a revelation of something fair in life she had not recognized, and her hands paused in their work, and her earnest eyes and breathless attention followed Lawrence Brook with every word he uttered.... Her quick imagination and sensitive heart seized upon the poem and its beauty as if it were a gift which now might be possessed forever. ~August Bell, "Quicksands of Love," 1887
If it doesn't work horizontally as prose...
~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com
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
This spirit is the breath of Nature, blown
Over the sleeping forms of clay, who else
Doze on through life in blank stupidity...
~James G. Percival, "Poetry," c.1822
Poets swing too high, until the chain kinks and snaps mid-air. The fall is poetry. ~Terri Guillemets
Poetry is the art of substantiating shadows. ~Edmund Burke
Lyres are placid in the hands of poets; but the true lyre is the poet himself. ~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847)
Poets are like baseball pitchers. Both have their moments. The intervals are the tough things. ~Robert Frost
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 uses the rainbow tints for special effects, but always keeps its essential object in the purest light of truth. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes
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. ~Terri Guillemets, "From the Library to the Park," 1993
Poetry is truth in its Sunday clothes. ~Author Unknown
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
I had rather be a Kitten, and cry mew,
Than one of these same Meeter Ballad-mongers:
I had rather heare a Brazen Candlestick turn'd,
Or a dry Wheele grate on the Axle-tree,
And that would set my teeth nothing an edge,
Nothing so much, as mincing Poetrie...
~William Shakespeare, Henry the Fourth (Hot-spurre)
Poetry is prose, bent out of shape. ~J. Patrick Lewis, www.jpatricklewis.com
The gaze of nature thus awakened dreams and pulls the poet after it. ~Walter Benjamin
Poetry is the key to the hieroglyphics of Nature. ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827
I am no dealer in metaphysics, and will not attempt to define poetry by its rules. Poetry lies hid within the inner core of man's thoughts and feelings and affections. It pervades the glorious universe in which the Almighty has placed him. It shines forth from the starry heavens, and from the deep blue vault of the summer sky. It lurks amid the green leaves of the groves, and gushes forth in the "wood notes wild" of their sweet songsters. It sparkles and plays in the flickering eddies of the stream... ~J. M'Dermaid, "Burns as a Poet," 1859
Poets smoke nature and beauty and angst and exhale swirling plumes of poetry. ~Terri Guillemets
[N]ature-loving poets.... the children of the sunlight, the minstrels of the groves and the companions of the moors. ~W.H. Gresswell, "A Poet's Corner," 1889
The secrets of Nature's beauty, as well as of her philosophy, must be interpreted, and poets are God's interpreters to make these secrets plain. ~J. M'Dermaid, "Burns as a Poet," 1859
Poetry is everywhere; it just needs editing. ~James Tate
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
The poet who knows one human can portray a hundred. ~Marie Dubsky, Freifrau von Ebner-Eschenbach (1830–1916), translated by Mrs Annis Lee Wister, 1882
Soldiers in the war of poetry
Bleed silky rose petals and glittering thorns
And leave behind beautiful inked destruction—
Embattled souls wounded, and healed.
Beauty is the true meaning of poetry. But after all nothing is said; and a thinker, a sensitive mind, will extract more from the simple word itself than can be embodied in a hundred varnished phrases. ~T.C. Henley, "Beauty," 1851
[I]t is not health, it is convalescence that is poetical. Just as certain plants only yield all their fragrance to the fingers that crush them, so it is only in a state of suffering that certain affections utter all their poetry. ~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847)
Poets' Pens, pluckt from Archangels' wings. ~John Davies of Hereford (c.1565–1618)
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
[Poetry] feeds on the purest substance of the sentiments of the soul. It quenches its thirst with a nectar that has no dregs. ~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847)
[T]rue poets... can pierce through the clouds to the light, and save the purity of their inspiration from the general disorder. It is refreshing to read them, delightful to steep ourselves in their truthful poetry. ~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847)
I don't create poetry, I create myself, for me my poems are a way to me. ~Edith Södergran
Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese. ~G.K. Chesterton [Not true! To read the poetry of cheese, click here.
Any healthy man can go without food for two days — but not without poetry. ~Charles Baudelaire
I have supped on poetry. ~Octave Mirbeau, A Chambermaid's Diary / Le Journal d'une Femme de Chambre, 1900, translated from the French by Benjamin R. Tucker
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
Oh, of course I know that 'ate' ain't good etiquette in that place... It should be 'eat.' But 'eat' don't rhyme, an' 'ate' does. So I'm goin' to use it. An' I can, anyhow. It's poem license; an' that 'll let you do anything. ~Eleanor H. Porter, "Dad," Dawn, 1918 [Okay, if you insist on knowing the poem, it is thus: "Supper's ready, supper's ready, / Hurry up, or you'll be late, / Then you'll sure be cross and heady / If there's nothin' left to ate."
I lied about my weight on my poetic license. ~Terri Guillemets
"That's a very nice War Song—it's so peaceful and soothing," spake the Queen. "And now call the Poets from Freeland. This is the time for them to renew their licences, though I greatly fear that they have been taking so many liberties of late that any licence I can give them will prove superfluous."
"Superfluous! Superfluous! That is a good word," muttered the Zankiwank. "I wonder what it means?" Whereupon he went and asked Robin Goodfellow and all the other Fairies, but as nobody knew, it did not matter, and the Poets arriving at that moment he thought of a number and sat on a toadstool.
Maude recognised several of the Poets who came to have their licences renewed—she had heard of "poetic licence" before, but never dreamed that one had to get the unwritten freedom from Fairyland. But so it was. Several of the Poets seemed to be exorbitant in their demands, and wanted to make their poems all licence, but this Titania would not consent to, so they went away singing, all in tune...
~S.J. Adair Fitz-Gerald (1859–1925), The Zankiwank & The Bletherwitch, 1896
A good poem, like a bouquet of choice flowers, is the blending of exquisite coloring and sweet perfume, to the delight of both head and heart. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), "Pulpit, Pen, and Platform," Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882
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
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A poet is a man who puts up a ladder to a star and climbs it while playing a violin. ~Edmond de Goncourt
Poetry is not a civilizer, rather the reverse, for great poetry appeals to the most primitive instincts. ~Robinson Jeffers
The history of poetry is not exclusively and identically the history of works written in verse. Poetry dwells in prose writings as well; nay, is necessarily met with there, for poetry is less a class of writings than a breath unequally but generally diffused throughout literature: it is whatever raises us from the real to the ideal; whatever brings the prosaic in contact with our imaginations; whatever in any intellectual work echoes within the soul; it is the beauty of all beautiful things; it penetrates into spheres apparently most foreign to it; and what Voltaire has said of happiness may be equally said of poetry,—"She resembles fire, whose gentle heat secretly insinuates itself into all other elements, descends into rocks, rises in the cloud, reddens the coral in the sand of the seas, and lives in icicles that winters have hardened." ~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847)
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
Poetry is creative; to be a poet is to remake the universe. ~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847)
We ask the poet: 'What subject have you chosen' instead of: 'What subject has chosen you?' ~Marie Dubsky, Freifrau von Ebner-Eschenbach (1830–1916), translated by Mrs Annis Lee Wister, 1882
We should manage our Thoughts in composing a Poem, as Shepherds do their Flowers in making a Garland; first select the choicest, and then dispose them in the most proper Places, where they give a Lustre to each other... ~Alexander Pope, "Thoughts on Various Subjects," 1727
A poet is a man who manages, in a lifetime of standing out in thunderstorms, to be struck by lightning five or six times. ~Randall Jarrell
[I]f I had my life to live over again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once a week; for perhaps the parts of my brain now atrophied would thus have been kept active through use. The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature. ~Charles Darwin
...to create a perpetual feeling of enchantment by the constant but unobtrusive employment of the most beautiful and melodious words... a painter and musician in speech... ~Richard Garnett, April 1897, Introduction to The Poetry of Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Poetry is emotion put into measure. ~Thomas Hardy
In many cases these verses will seem to the reader like poetry torn up by the roots, with rain and dew and earth still clinging to them, giving a freshness and a fragrance not otherwise to be conveyed. ~Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Preface to Poems by Emily Dickinson Edited by Two of Her Friends, Mabel Loomis Todd and T.W. Higginson, ©1890
I hate French poetry. What measured glitter! ~Israel Zangwill, Dreamers of the Ghetto, "From a Mattress Grave," 1897, spoken by the character Heinrich Heine
To form the complete poet, neither heart only, nor head only, is sufficient; the complete poet must have a heart in his brain, or a brain in his heart. ~George Darley
The pleasure that poetry gives is that of imagining more than is written; the task is divided between the poet and his reader. ~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847)
A poet is a nightingale, who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds. His auditors are as men entranced by the melody of an unseen musician, who feel that they are moved and softened, yet know not whence or why. ~Percy Bysshe Shelley
Here he had read to me his tear-stained page
Of sorrow... here would try
To lay his burden in the hands of Song,
And make the Poet bear the Lover's wrong,
But still his heart impatiently would cry:
"In vain, in vain! You cannot teach to flow
In measured lines so measureless a woe.
First learn to slay this wild beast of despair,
Then from his harmless jaws your honey tear!"
~Bayard Taylor, "First Evening"
It seems as though poetry and philosophy were twin stars of different but harmonious colours, each shining in the other's light, and shedding a twofold radiance upon their attendant planets. ~Henry James Slack (1818–1896), The Ministry of the Beautiful, 1850
What is poetry but impassioned truth—philosophy in its essence—the spirit of that bright consummate flower, whose root is in our bosoms? ~Ebenezer Elliott (1781–1849), Preface to Corn Law Rhymes, 1831
No man was ever yet a great poet, without being at the same time a profound philosopher. For poetry is the blossom and the fragrancy of all human knowledge, human thoughts, human passions, emotions, language. ~S.T. Coleridge (1772–1834), Biographia Literaria, 1817
POETRY.—The language in which the Book of Nature is written—they who can translate it are called poets. ~"A Chapter of Definitions," Daily Crescent, 1848 June 23rd
For not only is the poet is a translator of the inner life of man, with its wonder world of thoughts and feelings—its unspeakable love and sorrow, its hopes and aspirations, temptations and lonely wrestlings, darings and doubts, grim passions and gentle affections, its smiles and tears—which, in their changeful lights or gloomy grandeur, play out the great drama of the human heart, but he also translates into his poetry and reflects for us the very spirit of his time. ~Gerald Massey, "Poetry—The Spasmodists," The North British Review, 1858
Poetry is what gets lost in translation. ~Robert Frost
A poem sings with a bad accent in any language not its own. ~Austin O'Malley (1858–1932), Thoughts of a Recluse, 1898
A translation of a poem is like a plastercast of a statue or a photograph of a painting; and the better the translation the poorer the original poem. ~Austin O'Malley (1858–1932), Thoughts of a Recluse, 1898
Poetry is perfect verbs hunting for elusive nouns. ~J. Patrick Lewis, www.jpatricklewis.com
Truth shines the brighter, clad in verse. ~Alexander Pope
And take back ill-polished stanzas to the anvil. ~Horace, quoted in James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources, 1893
I prefer the absurdity of writing poems
to the absurdity of not writing poems.
~Wisława Szymborska (1923–2012), "Possibilities," 1997, translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh and Stanisław Barańczak
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 poet acquires a kind of spiritual jurisdiction over the places he has sojourned in and the hills he has haunted. ~W.H. Gresswell, "A Poet's Corner," 1889
Mirrors seemed to have taken up a hell of a lot of time in his life. He thought of one now—the mirror in the bathroom, years ago, back home. When he was a kid—fourteen, fifteen—writing a poem every night before he went to sleep, starting and finishing it at one sitting even though it might be two or three o'clock, that bathroom mirror had come to mean more to him than his own bed. Nights when he had finished a poem, what could have been more natural, more necessary and urgent, than to go and look at himself to see if he had changed? Here at this desk, this night, one of life's important moments had occurred. Humbly, almost unaware, certainly innocent, he had sat there and been the instrument by which a poem was transmitted to paper. ~Charles R. Jackson, The Lost Weekend, 1944
The poet is a sensitive snail
wandering along the path of life
leaving a glittering trail of words.
~Terri Guillemets, "Inching along, leaving behind," 2003
Compression of poetry is so great I often explode. Out of the house to walk off a poem. ~William Corbett, "On Reading: Notes & a Poem," The Agni Review, No. 22 (1985)
Poems: words with smooth edges. ~Author Unknown
Poetry is a perfectly reasonable means of overcoming chaos. ~I.A. Richards (1893–1979)
Prose is just poetry that can't stop talking. ~Terri Guillemets, "Valerian song," 1996
'There is correct English: that is not slang.'
'I beg your pardon: correct English is the slang of prigs who write history and essays. And the strongest slang of all is the slang of poets.'
...'Aha, Miss Rosy, you don't know Homer from slang. I shall invent a new game; I shall write bits of slang and poetry on slips, and give them to you to separate.'
'Dear me, how amusing it is to hear young people talk!' said Mrs Vincy, with cheerful admiration.
~George Eliot, Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life, Volume I, Book I—Miss Brooke, 1871
My poetry, I think, has become the way of my giving out what music is within me. ~Countee Cullen (1903–1946)
[T]he office of poetry is not to make us think accurately, but feel truly. ~Frederick W. Robertson, lecture delivered before the Members of the Mechanics' Institution, February 1852
All genuine poets are fervid politicians.... Are there no politics in Hamlet? Is not Macbeth, is not the drama of Wallenstein, a sublime political treatise? Napoleon was a great poet, when, pointing to the pyramids, he said to his army, 'Forty centuries look down upon us!'... All true and lasting poetry is rooted in the business of life. ~Ebenezer Elliott (1781–1849), Preface to Corn Law Rhymes, 1831
The eye is the only note-book of the true poet. ~James Russell Lowell
Poetry has eternally inked itself on my mind,
the pen of the universe writes in my heart,
the harp of emotion plays chords in my soul.
~Terri Guillemets, "Sunday breakfast & morning view," 2015
[I]n every part of this eastern world, from Pekin to Damascus, the popular teachers of moral wisdom have immemorially been poets... ~Sir William Jones, "On the Philosophy of the Asiaticks" (eleventh anniversary discourse, delivered 1794 February 20th)
Without philosophy there can be no true poetry: without it pretty verses may, indeed, be made; but in order to be really a poet it is essential to be also, up to a certain point, a philosopher. ~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847)
Who can sleep when all the words of the poem aren't just exactly right‽ ~Terri Guillemets, "Poeta insomnis," 2014
His rhymes the poet flings at all men's feet,
And whoso will may trample on his rhymes.
Should Time let die a song that's true and sweet
The singer's loss were more than match'd by Time's.
~William Watson, "'Subjectivity' in Art," Epigrams of Art, Life, and Nature, 1884
Rhyme is the music of the poetic dance. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882
The poet speaks to all men of that other life of theirs that they have smothered and forgotten. ~Edith Sitwell
A poem should not mean
~Archibald MacLeish, Ars Poetica, 1926
Your prayer can be poetry, and poetry can be your prayer. ~Terri Guillemets, "A lonely pen at night," 1992
Of pleasant images in pleasant words,
Melting like melody into the ear,
And stealing on in one continual flow,
Unruffled and unbroken. It is joy
Ineffable to dwell upon the lines
That register our feelings, and portray,
In colours always fresh and ever new,
Emotions that were sanctified, and loved,
As something far too tender, and too pure,
For forms so frail and fading...
~James G. Percival, "Love of Study," c.1822
So we dreamt a dream. And there seemed to arise the Poet. And he seemed to say, There is a man who sits and thinks,—thinks deeply. And his fancy draws up forms and facts from The Beautiful. And a pen writes them down; and it is Poetry, and he is a Poet. ~"Architecture," The Fine Arts' Journal, 1846 November 7th
Theodore—"I was at first afraid that he was one of those numerous poets who have driven poetry from the earth, one of those stringers of sham pearls who can see nothing in the world but the last syllables of words, and who when they have rhymed glade with shade, flame with name, and God with trod, conscientiously cross their legs and arms and suffer the spheres to complete their revolution."
Rosette—"He is not one of those. His verses are inferior to him and do not contain him. What he has written would give you a very false idea of his own person; his true poem is himself, and I do not know whether he will ever compose another. In the recesses of his soul he has a seraglio of beautiful ideas which he surrounds with a triple wall, and of which he is more jealous than was ever sultan of his odalisques. He only puts those into his verses which he does not care about or which have repulsed him; it is the door through which he drives them away, and the world has only those which he will keep no longer." ~Théophile Gautier, Mademoiselle de Maupin, 1835
The true poem is the poet's mind. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Poetry nests in our souls
until it flies away on
the feather of a quill.
~Terri Guillemets, "Nesting," 2009
[P]oetry... the spontaneous fusion of hitherto unrelated words. Such things must take place in your own head, by your own chemistry. ~Marie Emilie Gilchrist (1893–1989), Writing Poetry: Suggestions for Young Writers, 1932
Spirit of Verse! in deepest reverence
I bow before thine ever-glorious shrine;
Thee I have loved with passion most intense;
And though I feel thy meeds can ne'er be mine,
Yet may I pour one low and gentle line...
~Charles Swain, "Poesy," in The Literary Magnet, June 1826
Pressure cranks and presses Life, squeezing out essence of self, aromatic with bittersweet memories, pungent adversities, and the honey-musk of desire — the vapors hover over our inkpots, and if we pick up the feather it becomes our poetry. ~Terri Guillemets
Then a health to the poets I'll toss,
To Byron and Shelley and Keats,
To Dobson the blithe and Swinburne the lithe,
And the Irish phenomenon Yeats.
~Your Health!, compiled by Idelle Phelps, 1906
Poetry tosses my pen across
the vast tumbling seas of self,
intermittent sunshine glistening
off the spilt ink,—
storms breaking ideas & words
that sink then emerge
and sink again.
~Terri Guillemets, "Overboard poet," 1992
A poet is, before anything else, a person who is passionately in love with language. ~W.H. Auden
A poet is a flaming phoenix — burnt up with each and every poem. ~Terri Guillemets
The Phœnix is also very much like an intelligent eagle, with gold and crimson plumage and an exceptionally waggish tail. It has the advantage of fifty orifices in his bill, through which he occasionally sings melodious songs to oblige the company. As he never appears to anyone more than once in five hundred years, sometimes, when he has the toothache for instance, only once in a thousand years—which is why he is called a rara avis—if you ever meet him at any time take particular notice of him. And if you can draw, if it is only the long bow, make a sketch of him. He lives chiefly on poets—which is why so many refer to him. He has been a good friend to the poets of all ages, as your cousin William will explain. If you have not got a cousin William, ask some one who has. ~S.J. Adair Fitz-Gerald (1859–1925), The Zankiwank & The Bletherwitch, 1896
~Muriel Rukeyser, quoted in Highs by Alex J. Packer
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
A vein of Poetry exists in the hearts of all men; no man is made altogether of Poetry. We are all poets when we read a poem as well. ~Thomas Carlyle, "The Hero as Poet," lecture, 1840
There is a chord of poetry, I do believe, in all men; petrified and frozen up, it may be in too many, by the cold realities of this work-a-day world; yet, at times, that "touch of nature which makes the whole world kin," shoots like the electric spark through their veins, and thaws and softens the hard and care-worn heart. ~J. M'Dermaid, "Burns as a Poet," 1859
dripping crimson words
and with blood-red lips
leaves prints on her finest poetry.
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, 1957 February 17th
If Rilke cut himself shaving, he would bleed poetry. ~Stephen Spender, about Rainer Maria Rilke
A poet rips his flesh on the thorn of language and bleeds raw ink onto paper petals. ~Terri Guillemets
Every poet would like, I fancy, to be able to think that he had some direct social utility.... to give an immediate compensation for the pains of turning blood into ink.... Poetry begins... with a savage beating a drum in a jungle... hyperbolically one might say that the poet is older than other human beings.... Poetry... may make us from time to time a little more aware of the deeper, unnamed feelings which form the substratum of our being, to which we rarely penetrate... ~T.S. Eliot, "The Use of Poetry," 1932
The lamp you lighted in the olden time
Will show you my heart's-blood beating through the rhyme:
A poet's journal, writ in fire and tears...
Then slow deliverance, with the gaps of years...
~Bayard Taylor, "First Evening," The Poet's Journal, 1862
Many lyric poets have sensed a parallel between the rhythmic pulse of their blood and language in a poem, but it is of the essence of Kunitz' art that the threshold that transforms blood to ink is not tongue or mouth, but wound... ~Gregory Orr, Stanley Kunitz: An Introduction to the Poetry, 1985
Sometimes the poet writes with fire; with blood
Sometimes; sometimes with blackest ink:
It matters not. God finds his mighty way
Into his verse...
~J.G. Holland, Kathrina: A Poem, "Part II: Love," 1867
Is blood then so much more eloquent than ink? Does a pistol-shot ring farther than a poem? ~A Californian, anonymous open letter to poet Vera Fitch, 1910 October 29th, in Town Talk: The Pacific Weekly, San Francisco, 1910 November 12th, "Correspondence" [Written after Miss Fitch attempted suicide. "You came to New York to beard the lions of this brutal metropolis with a few frail songs in your hand and a great hope in your heart.... Yes, why should your little pistol bring you fame when your pen could not?" Because you "are just such a romantic victim as this unromantic Moloch of a city loves—to chew. You have brought it blood, and there is nothing it loves more than blood, unless it be beauty."
I bleed words;
Ink drops, and
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
...I have sat,
In days, when sensibility was young,
And the heart beat responsive to the sight,
The touch, and music of the lovely one;
Yes, I have sat entranced, enraptured, till
The spirit would have utterance, and words
Flowed full of hope, and love, and melody,
The gushings of an overburdened heart
Drunk with enchantment, bursting freely forth,
Like fountains in the early days of spring.
~James G. Percival, "Love of Study," c.1822
To be a poet is to have a soul so quick to discern that no shade of quality escapes it, and so quick to feel that discernment is but a hand playing with finely ordered variety on the chords of emotion—a soul in which knowledge passes instantaneously into feeling, and feeling flashes back as a new organ of knowledge. One may have that condition by fits only. ~George Eliot
Poetry mends a broken arrow then shoots us in the heart with it. ~Terri Guillemets, "Love, life, poetry," 2016
Invariably pure and austere, poets mostly
starve to death embracing empty mountains,
and when white clouds have no master,
they just drift off, idle thoughts carefree.
Poetry... simple, sensuous and passionate. ~John Milton, "Of Education. To Mr. Samuel Hartlib," c.1650
We need the knowledge of the poet, the prophet and the deeper things of life... ~Joseph F. Daniels, "The Empty Heart" (A Paper Read on the Educational Future of Libraries before the Library Section of the Colorado Teachers' Association, 1908 December 29th)
Winter surfaces in the poet by late summer, and spring is already in his inkpot with the first snow. ~Terri Guillemets
The flowery Path of Poetry but ill accords with the thorny Mazes of the Law; in the one I have wandered with rapture from Infancy, and I have endeavoured to grace the other with a simple but lasting Ornament—Integrity of Heart. ~Charles Snart, "Dedication, to Robert Lowe, Esq. Oxton," 1807 January 1st, Newark, Selection of Poems
Salts of lemon never fails to remove ink spots. A great many would-be poets should buy the salts by the barrel and pickle their effusions in it. ~Mary Wilson Little, Reveries of a Paragrapher, 1897
I sew my life together with the glittering thread of poetry. ~Terri Guillemets
The poet lights the light and fades away. But the light goes on and on. ~Emily Dickinson
Poetry is the overflowing of the soul. ~Henry T. Tuckerman, "Bryant," Thoughts on the Poets, 1850
Poetry is the energy of the soul made ink. ~Terri Guillemets, "Lust & creativity," 1995
[Man] asks from prose, only under a more obscure and indefinite form, what he expects from poetry; and indeed, where is the actual boundary between poetry and prose? and how can one help owning that prose is but poetry gradually but never entirely extinguished or calmed down? ~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847)
Poets rejoice in the light of dawn,
struggle with a heavy pen at noontide,
quip with dragons and fairies at teatime,
love and muse in the evening,
and flourish with midnight ink.
(Sleep? No. We might miss a poem.)
~Terri Guillemets, "Overclocked," 2011
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
A thing Dylan Thomas once said
About poetry haunts me most —
Still echoed derisively
By his sweating, chainsmoking ghost...
~Helen Smith Bevington, "Talk with a Poet," A Change of Sky
Poetry is not always words. ~Terri Guillemets, "Moonglow over the mountain," 1991
Poets aren't very useful
Because they aren't consumeful or very produceful.
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
The desert attracts the nomad, the ocean the sailor, the infinite the poet. ~Author Unknown
Poetry is an ethereal garden crying rhyming tears of roses. ~Terri Guillemets, "Fairie aerial," 1997
What is a Professor of Poetry? How can poetry be professed? ~W.H. Auden
A poet is inmate, and warden, to his own mind. ~Terri Guillemets
Poets are candid. They tell us not under an abstract, but an individual form, in which reality breathes, what humanity thinks in the most secret recesses of its mind. ~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847)
Old Books and fresh Flowers
Hot Tea, “thought in cold storage”
Brief the Verse, Reverie on hours
Poetry—her Mind's sweet forage.
[Quoted text is Herbert Samuel.
Poetry is not an expression of the party line. It's that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public, that's what the poet does. ~Allen Ginsberg
is letting go—
once the words leave your pen
they're out of your soul
and have no way back in.
Poetry should be a sacred thing.... It should be, in fine, the historian of human nature in its fullest possible perfection, and the painter of all those lines and touches, in earth and heaven, which nothing, but taste, can see and feel. It should give to its forms the expression of angels, and throw over its pictures the hues of immortality. There can be but one extravagance in poetry; it is, to clothe feeble conceptions in mighty language. ~James G. Percival, Preface to Clio, 1822
Poets yawn at business,
balk at politics, and believe
words the only currency.
~Terri Guillemets, "Sir Real Life," 2005
The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it. ~Dylan Thomas
Any method is good that produces a good poem. ~Helen Smith Bevington (1906–2001), When Found, Make a Verse Of, 1961
Poetry dyes your soul with a melody half yours and half the poet's. ~Terri Guillemets, "Reading Poetry," 1994
Sunshine cannot bleach the snow,
Nor time unmake what poets know.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
There is a pleasure in poetic pains
Which only poets know.
Children and lunatics cut the Gordian knot which the poet spends his life patiently trying to untie. ~Jean Cocteau
A poet cannot stop writing poems — an ink-stained soul compels his obsession. ~Terri Guillemets
Sorry if these lines are irregular in length and jolty in meter. ~J.F. Bowman, 1868 [a little altered
Poetry and death are not strangers but lovers, bound by the ink of life. ~Terri Guillemets
Poetry is a work of imagination wrought into form by art. It arises out of the necessity of expression, and the impossibility of adequate expression of any of the deeper feelings in direct terms. Hence the soul clothes those feelings in symbolic and sensuous imagery, in order to suggest them. Poetry is not imagination, but imagination shaped. Not feeling, but feeling expressed symbolically; the formless suggested indirectly through form. Hence the form is an essential element of poetry. And, the form in which poetical feeling expresses itself is infinitely varied. ~Frederick W. Robertson, paraphrased from a lecture delivered before the Members of the Mechanics' Institution, February 1852
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
Poetry touches upon the entire spectrum,
from lost to found —
and sometimes back again.
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
Poets touch forcibly and truly that invisible lyre which echoes in unison in all human souls. ~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847), paraphrase
...his eternally restless, eternally searching spirit that strives toward the heights on the wings of speculative thought. Deep inspiration and exalted feeling permeate every verse of the poem... ~Israel Zinberg (1873–1938), of Solomon Ibn Gabirol
A true poet does not bother to be poetical. Nor does a nursery gardener scent his roses. ~Jean Cocteau
Every poem is a coat of arms. It must be deciphered. How much blood, how many tears in exchange for these axes, these muzzles, these unicorns, these torches, these towers, these martlets, these seedlings of stars and these fields of blue! ~Jean Cocteau
Poetry blazons sexy words
with lusty, charming rhymes—
Prose is a sensible lover
who's always done at the stop.
~Terri Guillemets, "On the Wings & Wagers of Winter," 2015
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 appall them if it did. ~Christopher Morley, John Mistletoe
ღ Poetry swallows the precarious boundary between self and world.
ღ Poetry traces the serpentine boundaries of self and world.
ღ Poetry sings wild of the dangersome boundary between self and world.
ღ Poetry breaks through the guarded boundary between self and world.
ღ Poetry walks the line—a bit unbalanced—between self and world.
ღ Poetry crosses the ethereal border between self and world.
ღ Poetry word-tramples the fragile border between self and world.
ღ Poetry treads silently from dreams of self to the world.
ღ Poetry seeps from the crack of self to the limitless world.
ღ Poetry merges self with world. Poetry splits world from self.
ღ Poetry's butterfly, Self, lands on the flowering World; together they make beauty.
~Terri Guillemets, "Poetry, a creation of self & the world," 1991
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]oetry is the natural language of excited feeling. ~Frederick W. Robertson, lecture delivered before the Members of the Mechanics' Institution, February 1852
Poets don't draw. They unravel their handwriting and then tie it up again, but differently. ~Jean Cocteau, Dessins, 1924
The ugly is in poetry only a passing shadow. ~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847)
Poetry is more than verse-making, more than the jingle of words, more than the sing-song of meter.... Without poetry, life is a tread-mill; a veil of tears; a dreary waste. ~Author unknown, c.1895
A sold poem loses half its meaning. ~Terri Guillemets
My chief aim is to make a poem. You make it for yourself firstly, and then if other people want to join in then there we are. ~R.S. Thomas (1913–2000)
Can [poets] do anything but gradually ascend towards the source, towards the primitive ideas that bind together man—the family and society—with a different cement to that of science and of law? Long will it be ere poetry can solder together the fragments of its falling sceptre; but these fragments are beautiful, and in the present day he who succeeds in picking up one of them will be a king among us. ~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847)
Like butterflies in Spring
Poetry awakens the Spirit,
stirs the imagination and explores
the possibilities with each stroke of its rhythmic wings.
~Jamie Lynn Morris
A poet builds his nest in the springtime tree of wild reverie, and ends up staying the year. ~Terri Guillemets
The poetry of a given age teaches us less what it has, than what it wants and what it loves. It is a living medal, where the concavities in the die are transformed into convexities on the bronze or gold. ~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847)
I'm quite hungry. Feed me poems, please. ~Dr. SunWolf, 2014 tweet, professorsunwolf.com
...the swirling autumn leaves of a poet's dying words... ~Terri Guillemets
[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, quoted in A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations by Alan L. Mackay, 1991
Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words. ~Edgar Allan Poe
Sometimes when I mean to pickup my pen
I pickup my beer,
and I write with my drunk—
the ink an intoxicant always,
more so than brew or fermented grape;
mind ferments momentarily—
feelings, the fragrant raw hops
words wizen into malt
sudden fireworks of poetry
effervesce out the bottle...
~Terri Guillemets, "My mind ales me & I strain for words"
Does not poetry itself lose somewhat in detaching itself so entirely from the reality whence it proceeds, and fixing itself thus solitary in aërial heights? ~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847)
It has been truly said that though the printer's ink should dry up, ten thousand melodious tongues would preserve the songs of [Robert] Burns to remote generations. ~William Cunningham, "The Immortal Memory of Robert Burns," 1859
To be a poet is a condition rather than a profession. He requires whatever it needs to be completely his own master. ~Robert Graves, Horizon: A Review of Literature and Art, 1946
It sometimes seems to me (it is an error, I confess, but one into which I am for ever falling) that poetry is no longer anything more than an imitation of poetry... ~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847)
Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits. ~Carl Sandburg
We may conceive, and we even know by experience, another kind of poetry... a poetry whose accents, properly speaking, are not those of one man, but of the human race; which tells not what an individual has felt, but what has been felt by the human being ever since the fall that destroyed the simplicity of his nature, and perhaps, by that very fact, created all that is poetry...
When Innocence retreated tearfully from our earth, she met Poetry on the threshold; they passed close by, looked at each other, and each went her way,—the one to heaven, the other to the dwellings of men.
~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847)
Poetry is the art of uniting pleasure with truth by calling imagination to the help of reason. ~Samuel Johnson
How happy it made her! And what beautiful things these poets always thought of and said! ~S.J. Adair Fitz-Gerald (1859–1925), The Zankiwank & The Bletherwitch, 1896
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
The poet is a liar who always speaks the truth. ~Jean Cocteau
Why should I thus feel all on glow and flame,
Or strive to mark what I can never name;
Could but my pen and ink describe as clear,
As I that awful grandeur now feel here.
~H.W. Jeffree, Life: An Epic, "Book IV," written 1861, revised 1874
[P]oetry, that pearl of intelligence and life, reflects on our brow some pale rays of the glory that has faded away from it. ~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847)
Publishing a volume of verse is like dropping a rose-petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo. ~Don Marquis
There can be poetry in the writings of a few men; but it ought to be in the hearts and lives of all. ~John Sterline
poetry is flitting butterfly words
leaving inky spots on fragile papery wings
[P]oetry... folds its wings at the rough contact of reality... it feels in one sense much more, and in another much less, than the soul engaged with reality... ~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847)
The poetry of the earth is never dead. ~John Keats
[P]oetry shares our misery, it is agitated with all our uneasiness; like us, it goes, comes, flies, never rests. ~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847)
Poetry is frosted fire. ~J. Patrick Lewis, www.jpatricklewis.com
"That's the way of poets," said Warrington. "They fall in love, jilt, or are jilted; they suffer, and they cry out that they suffer more than any other mortals: and when they have experienced feelings enough, they note them down in a book, and take the book to market. All poets are humbugs, all literary men are humbugs; directly a man begins to sell his feelings for money he's a humbug. If a poet gets a pain in his side from too good a dinner, he bellows Ai, Ai, louder than Prometheus." ~William Makepeace Thackeray, The History of Pendennis, 1850
Poetry should never hurt. It may stab you with poetic pangs of melancholy but shouldn't ever hurt as life does. ~Terri Guillemets
If you know what you are going to write when you're writing a poem, it's going to be average. ~Derek Walcott
The poet sees and selects from on high and afar, and hardly inquires about what is near at hand. ~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847)
Come voyeur my poems
Feel free, I feel free.
~Terri Guillemets, "Skinnydippin' in ink," 1995
Poetry is nobody's business except the poet's, and everybody else can [f*@%] off. ~Philip Larkin
A poet is too impatient for prose. He needs an expressway to his emotions. ~Terri Guillemets
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
My poem may be a weed, but it has sprung, unforced, out of existing things. It may not suit the circulating libraries for adult babies; but it is the earnest product of experience, a retrospect of the past, and an evidence of the present—a sign of the times—a symptom, terrible, or otherwise, which our state doctors will do well to observe with the profoundest shake of the head... ~Ebenezer Elliott (1781–1849), Preface to Corn Law Rhymes, 1831 [the poetry of politics
Poetry treks through our souls and tells us in rhyme of the adventure. ~Terri Guillemets
Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful. ~Rita Dove
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. ~Terri Guillemets
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 found in various shapes,
As vital or mental the mixture takes,
Or roundness or sharpness passion awakes...
~H.W. Jeffree, Life: An Epic, "Book IV," written 1861, revised 1874
Poetry is plucking at the heartstrings, and making music with them. ~Dennis Gabor
God is the perfect poet. ~Robert Browning
Elizabeth Barrett: Oh, but those poems! — with their glad and great-hearted acceptance of life.... Sometimes there are passages… I've marked one or two in your "Sordello" which rather puzzled me.
'All petals, no prickles
No prickles like trickles.'
Robert Browning: Well, Miss Barrett, when that passage was written only God and Robert Browning understood it. Now, only God understands it.
~The Barretts of Wimpole Street [This wording is from the 1934 movie, but it is quite similar in wording to the 1930 Rudolf Besier play the movie is based on; the screenplay writers are Ernest Vajda, Claudine West, and Donald Ogden Stewart. Browning has a poem "Another Way of Love" that reads thus: "...All petals, no prickles, / Delicious as trickles / Of wine poured at mass-time..."
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
Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood. ~T.S. Eliot, Dante, 1920
If a poet writes in gibberish, his soul yet understands. ~Terri Guillemets
I've written some poetry I don't understand myself. ~Carl Sandburg
Poets utter great and wise things which they do not themselves understand. ~Plato
Sometimes I'm not quite sure what it means, but the words are so beautiful I know it must be profound. ~Terri Guillemets, "In the library, alone & ecstatic," 1990
I love writing poetry because poetry can be anything you want it to be — just like daydreaming. There are no rules except those in your heart and your own pen. ~Terri Guillemets, "Quiet time with my soul," 1998
"Them kind of poems ain't stylish no longer. Rhymes has gone out. Everything's 'free verse' now. I've been readin' up about it. So I've wrote some of 'em. They're real easy to do — jest lines chopped off free an' easy, anywheres that it happens, only have some long, an' some short, for notoriety, you know, like this." And she read:
"A great big cloud
That was black
Out of the West. An' I knew
That a storm was brewin'.
An' it brewed."
"Now that was dead easy — anybody could see that. But it's kind of pretty, I think, too, jest the same. Them denatured poems are always pretty, I think — about trees an' grass an' flowers an' the sky, you know. Don't you?"
~Eleanor H. Porter, "Free Verse — à la Susan," Dawn, 1918
I would as soon write free verse as play tennis with the net down. ~Robert Frost, 1935
And let me be rather but honest with no-wit,
Than a noisy nonsensical half-witted poet.
~"The Poet's Prayer," c.1734
Poetry was music. Poetry was not the thing said, but continual evocation of delicious suggestions of meaning. Poetry was an unconscious crystallization of glittering images upon the bare twig of metre. Poetry, at the nadir of this search for its essence, became the formless babble and vomit of the poet's subconscious mind. ~Alec Derwent Hope
Whitman v. Swinburne
Thus, Whitman set out to express in his poetry the soul of his Culture awakening into self-consciousness on its own soil. Not only is the Faustian soul self-conscious; it is eternally restless, constantly striving upward, and possesses a sense of spiritual infinity. All these characteristics are given expression in Whitman's poetry. ~Walt Whitman Review, 1976
Did you ask dulcet rhymes from me?
Did you find what I sang erewhile so hard to follow, to understand?
Why, I was not singing erewhile for you to follow, to understand — nor am I now;
— What to such as you, anyhow, such a poet as I? — therefore leave my works,
And go lull yourself with what you can understand;
For I lull nobody — and you will never understand me.
~Walt Whitman, "Did You Ask Dulcet Rhymes from Me?," Drum Taps, 1865
"Did you ask dulcet rhymes from me?" inquires Mr. Whitman of some extraordinary if not imaginary interlocutor; and proceeds, with some not ineffective energy of expression, to explain that "I lull nobody—and you will never understand me." No, my dear good sir—or camerado: not in the wildest visions of a distempered slumber could I ever have dreamed of doing anything of the kind. The question of whether your work is in any sense poetry has no more to do with dulcet rhymes than with the differential calculus. The question is whether you have any more right to call yourself a poet, or to be called a poet by any man who knows verse from prose, or black from white, or speech from silence, or his right hand from his left, than to call yourself or to be called, on the strength of your published writings, a mathematician, a painter, a political economist, a dynamiter, a civil engineer, an amphimacer, a rhomboid, or a rectangular parallelogram. ~Algernon Charles Swinburne, "Whitmania," The Fortnightly Review, 1887 August 1st [a little altered
To have great poets there must be great audiences too. ~Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman … the remarkable American rhapsodist who has inoculated readers and writers with ethical and æsthetic rabies … the genuine energy and the occasional beauty of his feverish and convulsive style of writing … energetic emotion and sonorous expression … a style of rhetoric not always flatulent or inharmonious … exuberant incontinence … so pitiful a profession or ambition as that of a versifier … such were the flute-notes of Diogenes Devilsdung … James Macpherson could at least evoke shadows; Martin Tupper and Walt Whitman can only accumulate words … Mr. Whitman's Eve is a drunken apple-woman, indecently sprawling in the slush and garbage of the gutter amid the rotten refuse of her overturned fruit-stall; his Venus a Hottentot wench under the influence of cantharides and adulterated rum … the sources of inspiration which infuse into its chaotic jargon some passing or seeming notes of cosmic beauty, and diversify with something of occasional harmony the strident and barren discord of its jarring and erring atoms … but there is a thrilling and fiery force in his finest bursts of gusty rhetoric… ~Algernon Charles Swinburne, phrases extracted from "Whitmania," in The Fortnightly Review, 1887 August 1st [a little altered
She took up the volume of Swinburne and began reading it mechanically by the flickering candlelight. The rolling, copious phrases conveyed little meaning to her, but she liked the music of them.... A great tear splashing down across The Triumph of Time recalled her to herself. Often and often, with secret contempt and astonishment, had she seen Esther dissolved in tears over her favourite poets. Should she grow in time to be like Esther, undignified, unreserved? ~Amy Levy (1861–1889), Reuben Sachs: A Sketch, 1888