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Quotations about Poetry

Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.
~Leonard Cohen
Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary.
~Kahlil Gibran
Ink runs from the corners of my mouthThere is no happiness like mine.I have been eating poetry.
~Mark Strand, "Eating Poetry," Reasons for Moving, 1968
There's no money in poetry, but then there's no poetry in money, either.
~Robert Graves, 1962 interview on BBC-TV, based on a very similar statement he overheard around 1955
Poetry is what gets lost in translation.
~Robert Frost
Imaginary gardens with real toads in them.
~Marianne Moore's definition of poetry, "Poetry," Collected Poems, 1951
A poem is never finished, only abandoned.
~Paul Valéry
"Most poems are never finished," (I was defensive). He sighed: "No, most poems are never started."
~Dr. SunWolf
He who draws noble delights from sentiments of poetry is a true poet, though he has never written a line in all his life.
~George Sand, 1851
Always be a poet, even in prose.
~Charles Baudelaire, "My Heart Laid Bare," Intimate Journals, 1864
Poets are soldiers that liberate words from the steadfast possession of definition.
~Eli Khamarov, The Shadow Zone
Poetry is the journal of the sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air. Poetry is a search for syllables to shoot at the barriers of the unknown and the unknowable. Poetry is a phantom script telling how rainbows are made and why they go away.
~Carl Sandburg, Poetry Considered
Poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted.
~Percy Shelley, A Defence of Poetry, 1821
Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.
~Plato, Ion
Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry.
~W.B. Yeats
Poetry is to philosophy what the Sabbath is to the rest of the week.
~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827
The distinction between historian and poet is not in the one writing prose and the other verse... the one describes the thing that has been, and the other a kind of thing that might be. Hence poetry is something more philosophic and of graver import than history, since its statements are of the nature rather of universals, whereas those of history are singulars.
~Aristotle, On Poetics
Poetry is a packsack of invisible keepsakes.
~Carl Sandburg
Poetry should... should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a remembrance.
~John Keats
A poet can survive everything but a misprint.
~Oscar Wilde
To see the Summer SkyIs Poetry, though never in a Book it lie -True Poems flee.
~Emily Dickinson
The poet is in the end probably more afraid of the dogmatist who wants to extract the message from the poem and throw the poem away than he is of the sentimentalist who says, "Oh, just let me enjoy the poem."
~Robert Penn Warren, "The Themes of Robert Frost," Hopwood Lecture, 1947
A poem begins with a lump in the throat.
~Robert Frost
Poetry is the key to the hieroglyphics of Nature.
~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827
ever been kidnappedby a poetif i were a poeti'd kidnap youput you in my phrases and meter....
~Yolande Cornelia "Nikki" Giovanni, Jr., "kidnap poem"
Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.
~Percy Byshe Shelley
A prose writer gets tired of writing prose, and wants to be a poet. So he begins every line with a capital letter, and keeps on writing prose.
~Samuel McChord Crothers, "Every Man's Natural Desire to Be Somebody Else" The Dame School of Experience, 1920
Poetry is man's rebellion against being what he is.
~James Branch Cabell
A poet is an unhappy being whose heart is torn by secret sufferings, but whose lips are so strangely formed that when the sighs and the cries escape them, they sound like beautiful music... and then people crowd about the poet and say to him: "Sing for us soon again;" that is as much as to say, "May new sufferings torment your soul."
~Soren Kierkegaard
"Therefore" is a word the poet must not know.
~André Gide
The poem is the point at which our strength gave out.
~Richard Rosen
It is the job of poetry to clean up our word-clogged reality by creating silences around things.
~Stephen Mallarme
The true poet is all the time a visionary and whether with friends or not, as much alone as a man on his death bed.
~W.B. Yeats
If the author had said "Let us put on appropriate galoshes," there could, of course, have been no poem.
~Author Unknown
Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by reason.
The smell of ink is intoxicating to me - others may have wine, but I have poetry.
~Terri Guillemets
There is poetry as soon as we realize that we possess nothing.
~John Cage
Only the poet has any right to be sorry for the poor, if he has anything to spare when he has thought of the dull, commonplace rich.
~William Bolitho
Who can tell the dancer from the dance?
~William Butler Yeats
Most painters have painted themselves. So have most poets: not so palpably indeed, but more assiduously. Some have done nothing else.
~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827
Poetry is the language in which man explores his own amazement.
~Christopher Fry
If Galileo had said in verse that the world moved, the inquisition might have let him alone.
~Thomas Hardy
The poet doesn't invent. He listens.
~Jean Cocteau
Everything one invents is true, you may be perfectly sure of that. Poetry is as precise as geometry.
~Gustave Flaubert
Wanted: a needle swift enough to sew this poem into a blanket.
~Charles Simic
I am looking for a poem that says Everything so I don't have to write anymore.
The only problemwith Haiku is that you justget started and then
~Roger McGough
To have great poets there must be great audiences too.
~Walt Whitman
Even when poetry has a meaning, as it usually has, it may be inadvisable to draw it out.... Perfect understanding will sometimes almost extinguish pleasure.
~A.E. Housman
Perhaps no person can be a poet, or can even enjoy poetry, without a certain unsoundness of mind.
~Thomas Babington Macaulay
Poetry is the revelation of a feeling that the poet believes to be interior and personal which the reader recognizes as his own.
~Salvatore Quasimodo
You can't write poetry on the computer.
~Quentin Tarantino
Each man carries within him the soul of a poet who died young.
~Sainte-Beuve, Portraits littéraires, 1862
Poets are mysterious, but a poet when all is said is not much more mysterious than a banker.
~Allen Tate
Before men ever wrote in clay they cast their words in verse and line, rythymbound in poets' minds, defying time and age.
~Dave Beard
Browsing the dim back cornerOf a musty antique shopOpened an old book of poetryAngels flew out from the pagesI caught the whiff of a soulThe ink seemed fresh as todayWas that voices whispering?The tree of the paper still grows.
~Terri Guillemets
You will find poetry nowhere unless you bring some of it with you.
~Joseph Joubert
God is the perfect poet.
~Robert Browning
Science is for those who learn; poetry, for those who know.
~Joseph Roux, Meditations of a Parish Priest
Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.
~Carl Sandburg
The worst fate of a poet is to be admired without being understood.
~Jean Cocteau, Le Rappel á l'ordre, 1926
Poetry is life distilled.
~Gwendolyn Brooks
Poetry is thoughts that breathe, and words that burn.
~Thomas Gray
He lives the poetry that he cannot write. The others write the poetry that they dare not realise.
~Oscar Wilde
Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.
~Robert Frost
You don't have to suffer to be a poet. Adolescence is enough suffering for anyone.
~John Ciardi, Simmons Review, Fall 1962
Poetry is all that is worth remembering in life.
~William Hazlitt
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 it doesn't work horizontally as prose...itprobablywon'tworkanybetterverticallypretendingtobepoetry.
~Robert Brault, www.robertbrault.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
Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.
~T.S. Eliot, Dante, 1920
Poetry is the art of substantiating shadows.
~Edmund BurkePoets are like baseball pitchers. Both have their moments. The intervals are the tough things.
~Robert Frost
Poetry, like the moon, does not advertise anything.
~William Blissett
The poet sees things as they look. Is this having a faculty the less? or a sense the more?
~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827
Happiness is sharing a bowl of cherries and a book of poetry with a shade tree.
~Terri Guillemets
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
Poetry is prose, bent out of shape.
~J. Patrick Lewis, www.jpatricklewis.com
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
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
Each memorable verse of a true poet has two or three times the written content.
~Alfred de Musset, Le Poète déchu, 1839
Poetry is ordinary language raised to the nth power. Poetry is boned with ideas, nerved and blooded with emotions, all held together by the delicate, tough skin of words.
~Paul Engle, New York Times, 17 February 1957
I don't create poetry, I create myself, for me my poems are a way to me.
~Edith Södergran
There is as much difference between good poetry and fine verses, as between the smell of a flower-garden and of a perfumer's shop.
~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827
Mr Witwould: "Pray, madam, do you pin up your hair with all your letters? I find I must keep copies."Mrs Millamant: "Only with those in verse.... I never pin up my hair with prose."
~William Congreve, The Way of the World
I would as soon write free verse as play tennis with the net down.
~Robert Frost, 1935
Poetry is not a civilizer, rather the reverse, for great poetry appeals to the most primitive instincts.
~Robinson Jeffers
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 perfect verbs hunting for elusive nouns.
~J. Patrick Lewis, www.jpatricklewis.com
The poem... is a little myth of man's capacity of making life meaningful. And in the end, the poem is not a thing we see - it is, rather, a light by which we may see - and what we see is life.
~Robert Penn Warren, Saturday Review, 22 March 1958
A poem should not meanBut be.
~Archibald MacLeish, Ars Poetica, 1926
Your prayer can be poetry, and poetry can be your prayer.
~Terri Guillemets
It is a sad fact about our culture that a poet can earn much more money writing or talking about his art than he can by practicing it.
~W.H. Auden
Breathe-in experience,breathe-out poetry.
~Muriel Rukeyser, quoted in Highs by Alex J. Packer
I grew up in this town, my poetry was born between the hill and the river, it took its voice from the rain, and like the timber, it steeped itself in the forests.
~Pablo Neruda, quoted in Wall Street Journal,, 14 November 1985
You can tear a poem apart to see what makes it tick.... You're back with the mystery of having been moved by words. The best craftsmanship always leaves holes and gaps... so that something that is not in the poem can creep, crawl, flash or thunder in.
~Dylan Thomas, Poetic Manifesto, 1961
Poets aren't very usefulBecause they aren't consumeful or very produceful.
~Ogden Nash
If you got to talking to most cowboys, they'd admit they write 'em. I think some of the meanest, toughest sons of bitches around write poetry.
~Ross Knox
What is a Professor of Poetry? How can poetry be professed?
~W.H. Auden
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
Children and lunatics cut the Gordian knot which the poet spends his life patiently trying to untie.
~Jean Cocteau
Mathematics and Poetry are... the utterance of the same power of imagination, only that in the one case it is addressed to the head, in the other, to the heart.
~Thomas Hill
The crown of literature is poetry. It is its end and aim. It is the sublimest activity of the human mind. It is the achievement of beauty and delicacy. The writer of prose can only step aside when the poet passes.
~W. Somerset Maugham
A true poet does not bother to be poetical. Nor does a nursery gardener scent his roses.
~Jean Cocteau
Everything in creation has its appointed painter or poet and remains in bondage like the princess in the fairy tale 'til its appropriate liberator comes to set it free.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
A poet must leave traces of his passage, not proof.
~Rene Char
[A poem] begins in delight and ends in wisdom.
~Robert Frost, "The Figure a Poem Makes," Collected Poems of Robert Frost, 1939
Poetry comes with anger, hunger and dismay; it does not often visit groups of citizens sitting down to be literary together, and would appal them if it did.
~Christopher Morley, John Mistletoe
The poet, as everyone knows, must strike his individual note sometime between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five. He may hold it a long time, or a short time, but it is then that he must strike it or never. School and college have been conducted with the almost express purpose of keeping him busy with something else till the danger of his ever creating anything is past.
~Robert Frost
Like butterflies in SpringPoetry awakens the Spirit,stirs the imagination and exploresthe possibilities with each stroke of its rhythmic wings.
~Jamie Lynn Morris
[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
To be a poet is a condition, not a profession.
~Robert Frost
If Painting be Poetry's sister, she can only be a sister Anne, who will see nothing but a flock of sheep, while the other bodies forth a troop of dragoons with drawn sabres and white-plumed helmets.
~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827
Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits.
~Carl Sandburg
Poetry is the art of uniting pleasure with truth.
~Samuel Johnson
Our poetry in the eighteenth century was prose; our prose in the seventeenth, poetry.
~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827
I've written some poetry I don't understand myself.
~Carl Sandburg
The poet is a liar who always speaks the truth.
~Jean Cocteau
Publishing a volume of verse is like dropping a rose-petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo.
~Don Marquis
Come voyeur my poemsFeel free, I feel free.
~Carrie Latet
No poems can please for long or live that are written by water-drinkers.
~Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus), Satires
The poetry of the earth is never dead.
~John Keats
Poetry is frosted fire.
~J. Patrick Lewis, www.jpatricklewis.com
If you know what you are going to write when you're writing a poem, it's going to be average.
~Derek Walcott
A poet dares be just so clear and no clearer.... He unzips the veil from beauty, but does not remove it. A poet utterly clear is a trifle glaring.
~E.B. White
The poet... may be used as a barometer, but let us not forget that he is also part of the weather.
~Lionel Trilling, The Liberal Imagination, 1950
If you've got a poem within you today, I can guarantee you a tomorrow.
~Terri Guillemets
Poetry is nobody's business except the poet's, and everybody else can fuck off.
~Philip Larkin
Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.
~Rita Dove
Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.
~G.K. Chesterton
A poet's work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep.
~Salman Rushdie
Poetry is plucking at the heartstrings, and making music with them.
~Dennis Gabor