Poetry Quotes: Commonplace & Primitive

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

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

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

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)