“I dig old books.” ™
Poetry is frosted fire. ~J. Patrick Lewis, jpatricklewis.com
Prose walks, poetry dances. ~Paul Valéry, paraphrased
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
[W]here 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)
Prose is too coarse, too heavy for romance —
We need poetry for love & all things of chance.
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
Prose is just poetry that can't stop talking. ~Terri Guillemets, "Valerian song," 1996
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
A poet is too impatient for prose. He needs an expressway to his emotions. ~Terri Guillemets
When you unprose language, does it become poetry? ~Terri Guillemets
Poetry: Praise & Passion
Truth shines the brighter, clad in verse. ~Alexander Pope
Poetry... simple, sensuous and passionate. ~John Milton, "Of Education. To Mr. Samuel Hartlib," c.1650
A poet looks at the world the way a man looks at a woman. ~Wallace Stevens, Opus Posthumous, 1957
Poets' Pens, pluckt from Archangels' wings. ~John Davies of Hereford (c.1565–1618)
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
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
Within my heart there glows
A gay white light—
Lovely as some bright rose.
Through struggle storm and sorrow
This light is mine
Illumining all tomorrow.
Life would be naught to me
Without my light,
The flame of poetry.
~George Elliston, "Poetry," Changing Moods, 1922
Poetry — even bad poetry — may be our final hope. ~Edward Abbey, Vox Clamantis in Deserto, 1989
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
I have supped on poetry. ~Octave Mirbeau, A Chambermaid's Diary, 1891–1900, translated from the French by Benjamin R. Tucker
The girl born this month will flash like a streak of yellow sunshine... She will have poetry for breakfast, and spend the rest of the day on zephyrs and chocolate caramels. ~Josh Billings, "Horoskope for July," Farmer's Allminax for the Year of Our Lord 1872 [spelling standardized
I'm quite hungry. Feed me poems, please. ~professorsunwolf.com, tweet, 2014
Every healthy man can do without food for two days — but without poetry, never! ~Charles Baudelaire (1821–1867), translated from French
Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese. Virgil, if I remember right, refers to it several times, but with too much Roman restraint. He does not let himself go on cheese. Except Virgil and the anonymous rhymer of "If all the trees were bread and cheese," I can recall no verse about cheese. Yet it has every quality which we require in exalted poetry. It is a short, strong word, and it rhymes to "breeze" and "seas." Cheese has also variety, the very soul of song. ~G. K. Chesterton
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
["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 eat bad poetry like a goat, and
eat good poetry like a gourmand.
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
Be always drunken. Nothing else matters: that is the only question. If you would not feel the horrible burden of Time weighing on your shoulders and crushing you to the earth, be drunken continually.
Drunken with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you will. But be drunken.
And if sometimes, on the stairs of a palace, or on the green side of a ditch, or in the dreary solitude of your own room, you should awaken and the drunkenness be half or wholly slipped away from you, ask of the wind, or of the wave, or of the star, or of the bird, or of the clock, of whatever flies, or sighs, or rocks, or sings, or speaks, ask what hour it is; and the wind, wave, star, bird, clock, will answer you: ‘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
My poems are love-drunk letters to the universe. ~Terri Guillemets, "So easy, so hard," 1994
...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 (1795–1856), "Love of Study," c. 1822 [Percival was a surgeon, geologist, chemistry professor, poet, dictionary editor, and book collector!
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," 2014 [Ummm... write buzzed, edit tipsy?
Poetry: Feelings & Emotions
Poetry is emotion put into measure. ~Thomas Hardy
"I have often wondered if poets feel what they write — whether Swinburne, for instance, ever felt the weight of a dead cold thing within him here," slightly touching the region of his heart, "and realized that he had to drag that corpse of unburied love with him everywhere — even to the grave, and beyond — O God! — beyond the grave!" ~Marie Corelli, A Romance of Two Worlds, "Chapter IX: An Electric Shock," 1886
A poem begins with a lump in the throat. ~Robert Frost
It's a poet's lot not to feel as others do, and to feel what they do, in all its strangeness, more deeply. ~Barbara VanDenburgh, "'A Quiet Passion' haunting, beautiful look at Emily Dickinson's heart," The Arizona Republic, May 2017
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. Is there any other way? ~Emily Dickinson, 1870, quoted by Thomas Wentworth Higginson [In Alena Smith's brilliant television show Dickinson, Emily says this to Ben Newton and he expresses interest in reading her poetry sometime; she asks if he really would like to and he oh so adorably replies: "Only if it takes the top of my head off." That episode was written by Rachel Axler.
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)
The 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
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 is the natural language of excited feeling. ~Frederick W. Robertson, lecture delivered before the Members of the Mechanics' Institution, February 1852
A poem ys a lovelye weakness yn a worlde of hateful strengths. ~Chaucer Doth Tweet, @LeVostreGC, 2019
Lose hope, friends, if you must. But all you’re going to find is poetry. ~Eric Jarosinski, @NeinQuarterly ["And from there make your way back again" (jack b kohler, @wwwordsss)
And there is pleasure in the utterance
Of pleasant images in pleasant words,
Melting like melody into the ear...
It is joy ineffable to dwell upon lines
That register our feelings, and portray,
In colors 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 (1795–1856), "Love of Study," c.1822
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 is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words. ~Robert Frost
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
All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling. ~Oscar Wilde
It's easier to write poetry on a bad day, when your heart has been halved and emotions bleed out through the pen. ~Terri Guillemets
Poetry: Madness & Sanity
The courage of the poet is to keep ajar the door that leads to madness. ~Christopher Morley, Inward Ho!
Poet, madman, or lover — all three should be one and the same thing... ~Marie Corelli, A Romance of Two Worlds, "Chapter IX: An Electric Shock," 1886
We poets in our youth begin in gladness;
But thereof come in the end despondency and madness.
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
Children and lunatics cut the Gordian knot which the poet spends his life patiently trying to untie. ~Jean Cocteau
I have thought
Too long and darkly, till my brain became,
In its own eddy boiling and o'erwrought,
A whirling gulf of phantasy and flame.
I am half mad
Between metaphysics, mountains, lakes,
Love unextinguishable, thoughts unutterable,
And the nightmare of my own delinquencies.
~Lord Byron [Mash-up quote. Childe Harold, III, vii, and letter to Moore, 1817 January 28th, poeticized.
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
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)
It is delightful to steep ourselves in poetry. ~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847)
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)
"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
There she was, sitting up in bed again, surrounded by volumes of poetry with poetic images printed on them: rows of daisies, bolts of lightning, streams of musical notes, parades of bugs, fences made out of bloody daggers, and a lot of books with appealing titles like Oblivion and Morosity and The Collected Poems of Ella Wheeler Wilcox. ~Gregory Maguire, What-the-Dickens: The Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy, 2007
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
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
You can't write poetry on the computer. ~Quentin Tarantino
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
is letting go—
once the words leave your pen
they're out of your soul
and have no way back in.
Any method is good that produces a good poem. ~Helen Smith Bevington (1906–2001), When Found, Make a Verse Of, 1961
A poet cannot stop writing poems — an ink-stained soul compels his obsession. ~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
~Terri Guillemets, "Poetry breathes," 2004
Emily: So I can just have time to myself.
Vinnie: Time to yourself? To do what?
Emily: To take dictation from God.
Vinnie to Maggie: My sister's a poet.
~Alena Smith and Rachel Axler, “I have never seen ‘Volcanoes,’” Dickinson, 2019
"Therefore" is a word the poet must not know. ~André Gide
It is the job of poetry to clean up our word-clogged reality by creating silences around things. ~Steven Mallarmé
The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau
Poets smoke nature and beauty and angst and exhale swirling plumes of poetry. ~Terri Guillemets
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
A true poet does not bother to be poetical. Nor does a nursery gardener scent his roses. ~Jean Cocteau
Poetry is everywhere; it just needs editing. ~James Tate
Poetry nests in our souls
until it flies away on
the feather of a quill.
~Terri Guillemets, "Nesting," 2009
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
Poets are like baseball pitchers. Both have their moments. The intervals are the tough things. ~Robert Frost
Writing poetry is letting your mind dance in the rain — no galoshes, no umbrella, just naked words and a rhythmic soul. ~Terri Guillemets
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
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..." And another which reads "God is the perfect poet..."
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
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
A poem should not mean
~Archibald MacLeish, Ars Poetica, 1926
The worst fate of a poet is to be admired without being understood. ~Jean Cocteau, Le Rappel á l'ordre, 1926
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
Poetic writing can be understood and misunderstood in many ways. In most cases the author is not the right authority to decide on where the reader ceases to understand and the misunderstanding begins. Many an author has found readers to whom his work seemed more lucid than it was to himself. Moreover, misunderstandings may be fruitful under certain circumstances. ~Hermann Hesse, "Author's Note," 1961, to Steppenwolf, 1927, translated by Joseph Mileck and Horst Frenz, 1963
Poetry: Self & Soul
Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry. ~W.B. Yeats
The poet illuminates us by the flames in which his being passes away. ~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847)
Poetry is an inky soulprint. ~Terri Guillemets
A poet's autobiography is his poetry. Anything else is just a footnote. ~Yevgeny Yentushenko, The Sole Survivor, 1982
Each man carries within him the soul of a poet who died young. ~Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve
I don't create poetry, I create myself, for me my poems are a way to me. ~Edith Södergran
The true poem is the poet's mind. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
The poet speaks to all men of that other life of theirs that they have smothered and forgotten. ~Edith Sitwell
When you really feel poetry, a new part of you happens, or an old part is renewed, with surprise and delight at being what it is. ~James Dickey, "How to enjoy poetry," from the 1979–1988 Power of the Printed Word advertising campaign by Billings S. Fuess, Jr. at Ogilvy & Mather for International Paper Company
[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
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)
Poetry treks through our souls and tells us in rhyme of the adventure. ~Terri Guillemets
You will find poetry nowhere unless you bring some of it with you. ~Joseph Joubert
The first thing to understand about poetry is that it comes to you from outside you, in books or in words, but that for it to live, something from within you must come to it and meet it and complete it. Your response with your own mind and body and memory and emotions gives the poem its ability to work its magic; if you give to it, it will give to you, and give plenty. ~James Dickey, "How to enjoy poetry," from the 1979–1988 Power of the Printed Word advertising campaign by Billings S. Fuess, Jr. at Ogilvy & Mather for International Paper Company
The poem is the point at which our strength gave out. ~Richard Rosen
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
Poetry — soul cartography.
~Terri Guillemets, "Treasure seeking you," 2003
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
Publishing a volume of verse is like dropping a rose-petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo. ~Don Marquis
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
A poet can survive anything but a misprint. ~Oscar Wilde
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 sold poem loses half its meaning. ~Terri Guillemets
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
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
The nostalgic point is that this recalls the vanished days when there was a market for poetry and, while the stuff didn't pay well by any standards, still it was possible for an ink-stained wretch to make a couple of hundred dollars a year. And in those days, when summer jobs were scarce, that often made it possible for me to take the summer off and engage in nothing more strenuous than writing more poetry. ~Gerald Raftery (1905–1986), "The poetry in my past," If I May Say So, The Bennington Banner, 1974 November 4th
In the eyes of those who anxiously seek perfection, a work is never truly completed — a word that for them has no sense — but abandoned... ~Paul Valéry, "Au Sujet du Cimetière Marin," 1933 [About his poem "The Cemetery by the Sea." Translated from French. Credit and further information: Ralph Keyes, The Quote Verifier, 2006.
On revisions as a matter of principle, I agree with Valery: 'A poem is never finished; it is only abandoned.' ~W. H. Auden, Collected Shorter Poems, 1927–1957, Foreword, 1966
A poem is never finished, only abandoned. ~Paul Valéry, as paraphrased even further by W. H. Auden, in A Certain World: A Commonplace Book, 1970
Poetry is never abandoned, it is only remixed. ~James Schwartz, unverified
"Most poems are never finished," (I was defensive). He sighed: "No, most poems are never started." ~Dr. SunWolf, tweet, 2011, professorsunwolf.com
What Is a Poet?
A poet is a man who puts up a ladder to a star and climbs it while playing a violin. ~Edmond de Goncourt
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
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
A poet is someone who stands outside in the rain hoping to be struck by lightning. ~James Dickey (1923–1997)
A poet is a storm with a pen —
splattering swashes of ink across the sky
in bursts of fervor with words on fire
whirling tempest-emblazoned rhyme
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
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 is inmate, and warden, to his own mind. ~Terri Guillemets
The poet is a liar who always speaks the truth. ~Jean Cocteau
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
Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. ~Percy Bysshe Shelley
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, Corn Law Rhymes, 1831
A poet is a lone wolf
at impossible questions—
Poetry is the answer.
Poetry: Nature & Seasons
Poetry is the key to the hieroglyphics of Nature. ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827
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
A poem is a carefully gathered bucket of stars. ~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 gaze of nature thus awakened dreams and pulls the poet after it. ~Walter Benjamin
To see the Summer Sky
Is Poetry, though never in a Book it lie –
True Poems flee –
~Emily Dickinson, c.1879
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
The poetry of the earth is never dead. ~John Keats
When winter gets deep
into languishing hearts,
poetry promises spring.
English poetry class taught by Dr. Robert Morse Lovett was like studying landscape design from a hill top. He taught the spacing, the graceful groups and the far views for the right sort of vistas. He was as sensitive to the microscopic details of moss in Christina Rossetti as he was to the big wild outdoors of Walt Whitman. ~Althea Warren (1886–1958)
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
Look! over yonder
what a beautiful
field of wildpoems
~Terri Guillemets, "Reverie art," 1992
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
Winter surfaces in the poet by late summer, and spring is already in his inkpot with the first snow. ~Terri Guillemets
A poet builds his nest in the springtime tree of wild reverie, and ends up staying the year. ~Terri Guillemets
...the swirling autumn leaves of a poet's dying words... ~Terri Guillemets
Rhyme is the music of the poetic dance. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882
My poetry, I think, has become the way of my giving out what music is within me. ~Countee Cullen (1903–1946)
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
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
Poetry is plucking at the heartstrings, and making music with them. ~Dennis Gabor
Poetry dyes your soul with a melody half yours and half the poet's. ~Terri Guillemets, "Reading Poetry," 1994
...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
[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
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 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
[I]n every part of this eastern world, from Pekin to Damascus, the popular teachers of moral wisdom have immemorially been poets... ~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)
Every great poem is in itself limited by necessity, — but in its suggestions unlimited and infinite. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882), "Drift Wood, A Collection of Essays: Table-Talk," Prose Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1857
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
Poets touch forcibly and truly that invisible lyre which echoes in unison in all human souls. ~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847), paraphrase
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)
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 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)
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
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
Poetry is an ethereal garden crying rhyming tears of roses. ~Terri Guillemets, "Fairie aerial," 1997
Being perfect artists and ingenuous poets, the Chinese have piously preserved the love and holy cult of flowers; one of the very rare and most ancient traditions which has survived their decadence. And since flowers had to be distinguished from each other, they have attributed graceful analogies to them, dreamy images, pure and passionate names which perpetuate and harmonize in our minds the sensations of gentle charm and violent intoxication with which they inspire us. So it is that certain peonies, their favorite flower, are saluted by the Chinese, according to their form or color, by these delicious names, each an entire poem and an entire novel: The Young Girl Who Offers Her Breasts, or: The Water That Sleeps Beneath the Moon, or: The Sunlight in the Forest, or: The First Desire of the Reclining Virgin, or: My Gown Is No Longer All White Because in Tearing It the Son of Heaven Left a Little Rosy Stain; or, even better, this one: I Possessed My Lover in the Garden. ~Octave Mirbeau, Torture Garden
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
Her poetry cries crimson roses
and laughs in spritely daisies.
Poetry: Witty & Mocking
The only problem
with Haiku is that you just
get started and then
I had rather be a kitten and cry mew
Than one of these same metre ballad-mongers;
I had rather hear a brazen canstick turn'd,
Or a dry wheel grate on the axle-tree;
And that would set my teeth nothing on edge,
Nothing so much as mincing poetry...
~William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part I [III, 1, Hotspur of the North]
I hate French poetry. What measured glitter! ~Israel Zangwill, Dreamers of the Ghetto, "From a Mattress Grave," 1897, spoken by the character Heinrich Heine
'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
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
Poets aren't very useful
Because they aren't consumeful or very produceful.
And let me be rather but honest with no-wit,
Than a noisy nonsensical half-witted poet.
~"The Poet's Prayer," c.1734
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
The first time I ever read the dictionary, I thought it was a poem about everything. ~Steven Wright, A Steven Wright Special, 1985, stevenwright.com
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
A poet must leave traces of his passage, not proof. ~Rene Char
A poet rarely swashes ink
& mainly mists at subtleties
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 an echo, asking a shadow to dance. ~Carl Sandburg
Poetry is the art of substantiating shadows. ~Edmund Burke
Poetry: 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)
Poetry: Night & Sleep
A poet is an insomniac
and always writes best
by the light of a midnight candle.
~Terri Guillemets, "Flickering," 2009
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
An Everlasting Poem is the Night,
Gleaming incessant on the page of space:
Printing itself in letters all of gold:
Singing itself in measures, all of fire...
~George Gilfillan, "The Poets of Night," Night: A Poem, 1867
Poetry staggers amongst stars, drunk on the night. ~Terri Guillemets
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 night of Shakspere is a southern night,
With tipsy stars for candles burning out,
With elves and fairies footing it to song...
With lovers sitting on the moonlight banks...
With glowworms burning gaily 'mid their woods,
With thrilling song of nightingale and lute...
And thus is Shakspere's world a soft strong link,
Like some serene and isthmus seeming star,
Binding us to the galaxies of God...
~George Gilfillan, "The Poets of Night," Night: A Poem, 1867
In the earlier years of his literary career he would frequently awake at night, get out of bed, light a candle, and compose many lines upon some poem which he said had "forced itself upon his mind." ~William H. Hayne, "Paul H. Hayne's Methods of Composition," c. 1892 [a little altered
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 could miss a poem.)
~Terri Guillemets, "Overclocked," 2011
I yearn to
fall asleep to
and dreamy aromas
so that I wake to
a poem-tinted dawn
and morning's sweet fragrance
lays out my new day's path
in flowers of purpose and joy.
Waking up at 2AM to vomit up poetry and then going back to sleep. ~Obel.xo, 2014
Who can sleep when all the words of the poem aren't just exactly right?! ~Terri Guillemets, "Poeta insomnis," 2014
Poetry: Math & Science
[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
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
Science is for those who learn; poetry, for those who know. ~Joseph Roux, Meditations of a Parish Priest
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
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)
Everything one invents is true, you may be perfectly sure of that. Poetry is as precise as geometry. ~Gustave Flaubert
If Galileo had said in verse that the world moved, the inquisition might have let him alone. ~Thomas Hardy
Poetry: Free Verse
"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
Sorry if these lines are irregular in length and jolty in meter. ~J. F. Bowman, 1868 [a little altered
I recently bought a book of free verse. For twelve dollars. ~George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty, 2001
I'd as soon write free verse as play tennis with the net down. ~Robert Frost
Couldn't you play better tennis with the net down? ~Carl Sandburg
The modern poet does not deny the right of regular verse to exist, or to be poetic. He merely affirms that poetry is sincerity, and has no essential alliance with regular schemes of any sort. He reserves the right to adapt his rhythm to his mood, to modulate his metre as he progresses. ~Herbert Read, Phases of English Poetry, 1928
The poet who writes "free" verse is like Robinson Crusoe on his desert island: he must do all his cooking, laundry, darning, etc., for himself. In a few exceptional cases this manly independence produces something original and impressive, but as a rule the result is squalor — empty bottles on the unswept floor and dirty sheets on the unmade bed. ~W. H. Auden, "Squares and Oblongs," 1947
My own verse is usually free verse. The freer the better. ~L. Ron Hubbard
Teenagers are free verse walking around on two legs. ~Dorothy Allison
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. ~A. D. Hope, 1957
pay at the tollbooth with pretty words
then swim naked under the bridge.
~Terri Guillemets, "Contemporary poetry," 2016
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, 1852
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
Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history. ~Plato
Poetry is all that is worth remembering in life. ~William Hazlitt
Poetry is creative; to be a poet is to remake the universe. ~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847)
Poetry is perfect verbs hunting for elusive nouns. ~J. Patrick Lewis, jpatricklewis.com
Poetry is a perfectly reasonable means of overcoming chaos. ~I.A. Richards (1893–1979)
Poetry is the overflowing of the soul. ~Henry T. Tuckerman, "Bryant," Thoughts on the Poets, 1850
Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash. ~Leonard Cohen
Poetry is not always words. ~Terri Guillemets, "Moonglow over the mountain," 1991
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 [possibly Silas X. Floyd
Poetry is combat — soul versus world. ~Terri Guillemets, "Soul verses," 1994
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 nobody's business except the poet's, and everybody else can [f*@%] off. ~Philip Larkin
poetry is flitting butterfly words
leaving inky spots on fragile papery wings
Whitman & 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
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
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
Poetry should... should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a remembrance. ~John Keats
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
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"
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
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)
There is poetry as soon as we realize that we possess nothing. ~John Cage
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)
Wanted: a needle swift enough to sew this poem into a blanket. ~Charles Simic
'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
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)
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
Poets swing too high, until the chain kinks and snaps mid-air. The fall is poetry. ~Terri Guillemets
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
[T]rue poets... can pierce through the clouds to the light, and save the purity of their inspiration from the general disorder. ~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847)
Rhyme.— Often a substitute for poetry... ~"Specimens of a Patent Pocket Dictionary, For the use of those who wish to understand the meaning of things as well as words," The New Monthly Magazine and Literary Journal, 1824‑5
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)
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
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
The eye is the only note-book of the true poet. ~James Russell Lowell
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
Your prayer can be poetry, and poetry can be your prayer. ~Terri Guillemets, "A lonely pen at night," 1992
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 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
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.
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)
A rose in sunlight is nature.
A rose in the dark is poetry.
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
The desert attracts the nomad, the ocean the sailor, the infinite the poet. ~Author Unknown
What is a Professor of Poetry? How can poetry be professed? ~W.H. Auden
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.
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
Sunshine cannot bleach the snow,
Nor time unmake what poets know.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Poetry and death are not strangers but lovers, bound by the ink of life. ~Terri Guillemets
Poetry touches upon the entire spectrum,
from lost to found —
and sometimes back again.
...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
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
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 poem] begins in delight and ends in wisdom. ~Robert Frost, "The Figure a Poem Makes," Collected Poems of Robert Frost, 1939
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
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)
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)
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 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)
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)
[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)
[P]oetry shares our misery, it is agitated with all our uneasiness; like us, it goes, comes, flies, never rests. ~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847)
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
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
Leaves are words on tree branch sentences, each breeze punctuates as it pleases. ~Terri Guillemets, "Forest for the poet trees," 2006
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
There is not a particle of life which does not bear poetry within it. ~Gustave Flaubert (1821–1880)