10 Great Quotes About Poetry, Writing, and Art by Robert Pinsky

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“Poetry’s medium is not merely light as air, it is air: vital and deep as ordinary breath.”

“A sentence is like a tune. A memorable sentence gives its emotion a melodic shape. You want to hear it again, say it—in a way, to hum it to yourself. You desire, if only in the sound studio of your imagination, to repeat the physical experience of that sentence. That craving, emotional and intellectual but beginning in the body with a certain gesture of sound, is near the heart of poetry.”

“An underestimated element in poetry, that reading aloud makes clear, is the pause. I mean especially the force of a pause or a couple of pauses close together, contrasted with a longer unit of grammar.”

“Poetry is not easy. Or should I say, real poetry is not easy.”

“I have always been thinking about the sounds and shades and aromas of words – fitting them together or disrupting their customary march – more or less every second of my life, waking and sleeping.”

“‘Write’ is almost the wrong verb for what I do. I think ‘compose’ is more accurate because you’re trying to make the sounds in your mind and in your voice. So I compose while I’m driving or in the shower.

“If a poem is written well, it was written with the poet’s voice and for a voice. Reading a poem silently instead of saying a poem is like the difference between staring at sheet music and actually humming or playing the music on an instrument.”

“If what you want to do is make good art, decide what’s good and try to imitate it.”

“The last thing a young artist should do in poetry or any other field is think about what’s in style, what’s current, what are the trends. Think instead of what you like to read, what do you admire, what you like to listen to in music. What do you like to look at in architecture? Try to make a poem that has some of those qualities.”

“Jazz and poetry both involve a structure that may be familiar and to some extent predictable. And then, you try to create as much surprise and spontaneity and feeling and variation while respecting that structure.”

—Robert Pinsky

 

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