10 Great Quotes About Poetry and Writing by Billy Collins


“I’m very conscious of the fact that every line should have a cadence to it. It should contribute to the progress of the poem. And that the ending of the line is a way of turning the reader’s attention back into the interior of the poem.”

“I always think W.S. Merwin’s poems will last of anyone writing today. If I had to bet on posterity I would bet Merwin. My poems could easily evaporate. So I don’t know. If you find yourself as a writer thinking about posterity you should probably go out for a brisk walk or something.”

“As soon as I start to write I’m very aware, I’m trying to be aware that a reader just might well pick up this poem, a stranger. So when I’m writing – and I think that this is important for all writers – I’m trying to be a writer and a reader back and forth. I write two lines or three lines. I will immediately stop and turn into a reader instead of a writer, and I’ll read those lines as if I had never seen them before and as if I had never written them.”

“I try to presume that no one is interested in me. And I think experience bears that out. No one’s interested in the experiences of a stranger – let’s put it that way. And then you have difficulty combined with presumptuousness, which is the most dire trouble with poetry.”

“More often than not in poetry I find difficulty to be gratuitous and show-offy and camouflaging, experimental to a kind of insane degree – a difficulty which really ignores the possibility of having a sensible reader.”

“I can’t picture myself starting out aiming to do anything or having much of an agenda. I think in writing a poem, I’m making some tonal adjustments, and it took me a long time to allow anything like fun into my poetry.”

“Form is any aspect of a poem that encourages it to stay whole and not drift off into chaos.”

“When you get a poem [in a public place], it happens to you so suddenly that you don’t have time to deploy your anti-poetry deflector shields that were installed in high school.”

“High School is the place where poetry goes to die.”

“I was a pretty happy kid, I had to fake it. I had to get into this miserable character before I wrote poems.”

-Billy Collins

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