10 Great Quotes About Poets, Poetry, and Writing by Ezra Pound

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“Poetry is a language pared down to its essentials.”

“The primary pigment of poetry is the Image.”

“The Image is more than an idea. It is a vortex or cluster of fused ideas and is endowed with energy.”

“Use no superfluous word, no adjective, which does not reveal something. Don’t use such an expression as ‘dim land of peace.’ It dulls the image. It mixes an abstraction with the concrete. It comes from the writer’s not realizing that the natural object is always the adequate symbol. Go in fear of abstraction.”

“And the good writer chooses his words for their ‘meaning’, but that meaning is not a a set, cut-off thing like the move of knight or pawn on a chess-board. It comes up with roots, with associations, with how and where the word is familiarly used, or where it has been used brilliantly or memorably.”

“Rhythm is form cut into time.”

“One discards rhyme, not because one is incapable of rhyming neat, fleet, sweet, meet, treat, eat, feet but because there are certain emotions or energies which are nor represented by the over-familiar devices or patterns.”

“Poetry is a very complex art…. It is an art of pure sound bound in through an art of arbitrary and conventional symbols.”

“Poetry is a sort of inspired mathematics, which gives us equations, not for abstract figures, triangles, squares, and the like, but for the human emotions. If one has a mind which inclines to magic rather than science, one will prefer to speak of these equations as spells or incantations; it sounds more arcane, mysterious, recondite.”

“Poets who are not interested in music are, or become, bad poets.”

—Ezra Pound

 

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Invented Poetry Forms – The ‘Lewis Carroll’ Square Poem

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In my many years of researching poetic forms, I have found that two or more forms will often share the same name, which can become pretty confusing. This definitely is the case with the square poem. One version often referred to as the ‘classic’ square poem is simply a poem in which the number of syllables per line is equal to the number of lines (my invented form the streetbeatina which has eight lines of eight syllables would certainly qualify as one).

In the other variation, which we will be discussing today, the line length is counted not in syllables but in words (isoverbal prosody), the amount of words in each line being the same as the number of lines. What makes this form attributed to the popular writer and poet Lewis Carroll really unique is its almost magical quality of being able to be read the same vertically (from top to bottom) as well as the conventional way from left to right. If you want to see an example of this form perfectly executed, you cannot do better than reading the original poem consisting of six lines of six words apiece thought to be written by Carroll:

A Square Poem

I often wondered when I cursed,
Often feared where I would be—
Wondered where she’d yield her love,
When I yield, so will she.
I would her will be pitied!
Cursed be love! She pitied me …

Not nearly as eloquent or clever, but here is my take on the 6×6 square poem:

Past Confessions

What I did not admit then,
I do not remember that well.
Did not you once say “please
not remember”? Once you would not
admit that. Say, would you believe?
Then, well, please not believe me.

Theoretically, one could write a ‘Lewis Carroll’ square poem of almost any length, but I personally would not recommend writing one longer than a 6×6. Even at the length,  I found it difficult to maintain both the meaning and grammar of the poem without it becoming convoluted and strained. I feel shorter ones are much easier to do, and even a 2×2, the shortest possible with a mere four words, can be effective if you choose an appropriate title to provide exposition and set up the poem’s premise like I tried to do in the following examples:

My Doppelganger

He’s not
not me…

The Stuttering Clock

Says “tick
tick tock.”

These are a couple of my attempts at  writing 3x3s:

Dachshund Depressed About Being Fed a Daily Diet of Frankfurters

Forced to eat,
to endure “dog
eat dog” blues.

What Do I See When I Gaze Upward?

Indigo sky? Not
sky blue? Maybe
not. Maybe turquoise…

Of all the variations I tried, my favorites would undeniably be the 4x4s:

Personal Evaluation

I am not perfect.
Am I absolutely sure?
Not absolutely. Are you
perfect? Sure, you are!

Instructions on Grieving

Don’t mourn the dead.
Mourn the love lost,
the love left unclaimed,
dead – lost, unclaimed possibilities.

Declaration

I love all poetry,
love these wonderful poets,
all wonderful wordsmiths reimagining
poetry, poets reimagining themselves.

So what do you think of the ‘Lewis Carroll’ square poem? Like many of the forms I previously introduced on this blog, I think it is obviously more suited for the fanciful than the serious. It is also a bit tricky to write, but its puzzle-like aspect maybe its greatest appeal. Creating a successful one feels like pulling off a feat of verbal legerdemain.

If you do try your hand at writing one (and I hope you do), bear in mind each word will be repeated in the poem with the exception of the first word in the first line, the second word in the second line, the third word in the third line, and so on. My advice to make sure your square poem will read the same both across and down is to compose it in a grid. For example, if you are writing a 4×4, sketch a square and divide it into 16 equal smaller squares, and pencil in your first four words across the top row, and then repeat them down the first column. Just keep plugging words into the appropriate squares, and checking that it seems to make some kind of sense and it reads both ways. If it doesn’t, just try new words. I must confess I had a terrible time when I started writing my first L. C. square poem until I stumbled upon this technique, and I hope it will work for you too.

10 Great Quotes About Poets, Poetry, and Writing by Nikki Giovanni

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“Poetry and music are very good friends. Like mommies and daddies and strawberries and cream – they go together.”

“If everybody became a poet the world would be much better. We would all read to each other.”

“Nothing improves your writing, I think, as much as your keeping writing.”

“Poetry is the most mistaught subject in any school because we teach poetry by form and not by content.”

“Poems don’t have to rhyme… Poems are about beauty and emotion; in other words, poems are about feelings.”

“Poetry is the most informative of all of the arts because everything comes down to poetry. No matter what it is we are describing, ultimately we use either a metaphor; or we say “that’s poetry in motion.” You drink a glass of wine and say, “that’s poetry in a bottle.” Everything is poetry, so I think we come down to emotional information. And that’s what poetry conveys.”

“[To become a poet] The most important thing is to pay attention. The next would probably be to read; it’s so important to pay attention. It keeps you from being bored, and I might add it keeps you from being boorish.”

“We write because we believe the human spirit cannot be tamed and should not be trained.”

“The poet can only write the poems; it takes the reader to complete the meaning.”

“You must be unintimidated by your own thoughts because if you write with someone looking over your shoulder, you’ll never write.”

—Nikki Giovanni

10 Great Quotes About Poets, Poetry, and Writing by Edward Hirsch

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“Poetry connects us to what is deepest in ourselves. It gives us access to our own feelings, which are often shadowy, and engages us in the art of making meaning. It widens the space of our inner lives. It is a magical, mysterious, inexplicable (though not incomprehensible) event in language.”

“And my experience is the best titles, for me, emerge in the process of writing. They don’t usually come at the very beginning and hopefully they don’t come at the very end because then it’s getting late in the day.”

“A poem is a hand, a hook, a prayer. It is a soul in action.”

“The poet wants justice. And the poet wants art. In poetry, we can’t have one without the other.”

“One of the deep fundamentals of poetry is the recurrence of sounds, syllables, words, phrases, lines, and stanzas. Repetition can be one of the most intoxicating features of poetry. It creates expectations, which can be fulfilled or frustrated. It can create a sense of boredom and complacency, but it can also incite enchantment and inspire bliss.”

“The way to become a poet is to read poetry and to imitate what you read and to read passionately and widely and in as involved a way as you can.”

“I think there are different kinds of poetry for different stages of life and there’s the wild, exuberance of youth, there’s the painful agony of midlife experience, there’s the late poetry in the presence of death.”

“Poetry never loses its appeal. Sometimes its audience wanes and sometimes it swells like a wave. But the essential mystery of being human is always going to engage and compel us. We’re involved in a mystery. Poetry uses words to put us in touch with that mystery. We’re always going to need it.”

“There has never been a great poet who wasn’t also a great reader of poetry.”

“Emily Dickinson calls previous poets her kinsmen of the shelf. You can always be consoled by your kinsmen of the shelf and you can participate in poetry by going to them and by trying to make something worthy of them.”

—Edward Hirsch

10 Great Quotes About Poets, Poetry, and Writing by Paul Engle

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“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.”

“Writing is rewriting what you have rewritten.”

“All poetry is an ordered voice, one which tries to tell you about a vision in the un-visionary language of farm, city, and love.

“But maybe it’s up the hills or under the leaves or in a ditch somewhere. Maybe it’s never found. But what you find, whatever you find, is only part of the missing, and writing is the way the poet finds out what it is he found.”

“I wanted to write poetry almost a little more than I wanted to eat.”

“Verse is not written, it is bled; Out of the poet’s abstract head. Words drip the poem on the page; Out of his grief, delight and rage.”

“Writing is like this — you dredge for the poem’s meaning the way police dredge for a body. They think it is down there under the black water, they work the grappling hooks back and forth.”

“The years rolled their brutal course down the hill of time. Still poor, my clothes still smelling of the horse barn, still writing those doubtful poems where too much emotion clashed with too many words”.

“Has the painter not always gone to an art school, or at least to an established master, for instruction? And the composer, the sculptor, the architect? Then why not the writer? Good poets, like good hybrid corn, are both born and made.”

—Paul Engle

Invented Poetry Forms – The Two-by-Four

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The two-by-four is a rather quirky eight-word poetic form invented by the American poet and book publisher Lee Ann Brown, which I originally discovered on pages 100 and 101 of her first book of poetry “Polyverse” published in 1999. As its name indicates, the form consists of four lines of two words apiece, and may or may not rhyme (only one of Brown’s eleven two-by-fours in her book does). There is no restriction on subject matter, and the form itself can be very versatile, but the poem’s main emphasis should be on whimsical, creative, and often experimental usage of language and wordplay. Although the original poems by Lee Ann did not have individual titles, I prefer to title my own two-by-fours to help identify and set up each poem’s premise (otherwise, I am afraid readers would be scratching their heads trying to figure out what they are all about). Like many of the other weird and offbeat poetry forms I have written about in the past, I find the two-by-four to be quite delightful and amusing to play and tinker with, and hope my following examples might inspire you to try writing some of your own:

Collective Optimism

Everybody believes
The world
Will not
End tomorrow

Scuttling the Scuttlebutt

You say
They say
I hear
Just hearsay

Consultation With My Chiropractor

She says
“too tense”-
I picture
Simultaneous wigwams

Going Dutch

Salty licorice
Candy sandwiches
Three kisses
Wooden shoes

On the Midway at the 1979 Iowa State Fair

Sellers of
Ginzu knives
Deftly wielding
Singsong spiels

Fashion Tip No. 9
(According to My Girlfriend)

Matching socks
Are required
Only for
Fancy places

Stalking the Wild Poem

Elusive thoughts
And emotions
Caught in
Verbal cages

Telegraphic Choreography

Morris (code)
Dancing – polka
Dots and
Conga lines

Playing a Hunch(back)

Spinal intuition
Tells me
Notre Dame
Will win

In Celebration of Mr. Presley’s Controversial
Appearance on the Milton Berle Television Show
(June 5th, 1956)

Flagrant undulations
Rocking p(Elvis)
Rolling Hip
Hip hurray!!!

10 Great Quotes About Poets and Poetry by Ralph Waldo Emerson

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“Only poetry inspires poetry.”

“Painting was called silent poetry and poetry speaking painting.”

“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.”

“Every word was once a poem.”

“It does not need that a poem should be long. Every word was once a poem.”

“Poetry must be as new as foam and as old as the rock.”

“Good poetry could not have been otherwise written than it is. The first time you hear it, it sounds rather as if copied out of some invisible tablet in the Eternal mind than as if arbitrarily composed by the poet.”

“For poetry was all written before time was, and whenever we are so finely organized that we can penetrate into that region where the air is music, we hear those primal warblings, and attempt to write them down, but we lose ever and anon a word, a verse, and substitute something of our own, and thus miswrite the poem.”

“For it is not metres, but a metre-making argument that makes a poem.”

“The true poem is the poet’s mind.”

—Ralph Waldo Emerson