10 Great Quotes About Poets, Poetry, and Art by Randall Jarrell


“A poet is a man who manages, in a lifetime of standing out in thunderstorms, to be struck by lightning five or six times.”

“Most poets, most good poets even, no longer have the heart to write about what is most terrible in the world of the present: the bombs waiting beside the rockets, the hundreds of millions staring into the temporary shelter of their television sets, the decline of the West that seems less a decline than the fall preceding an explosion.”

“Human life without some form of poetry is not human life but animal existence.”

“Art matters not merely because it is the most magnificent ornament and the most nearly unfailing occupation of our lives, but because it is life itself.”

“Poetry is a bad medium for philosophy. Everything in the philosophical poem has to satisfy irreconcilable requirements: for instance, the last demand that we should make of philosophy (that it be interesting) is the first we make of a poem; the philosophical poet has an elevated and methodical, but forlorn and absurd air as he works away at his flying tank, his sewing-machine that also plays the piano.”

“The safest way to avoid the world is through art; and the safest way to be linked to the world is through art.”

“A poem is, so to speak, a way of making you forget how you wrote it.”

“It is always hard for poets to believe that one says their poems are bad not because one is a fiend but because their poems are bad.”

“I think that one possible definition of our modern culture is that it is one in which nine-tenths of our intellectuals can’t read any poetry.”

“There is in this world no line [of poetry] so bad that someone won’t someday copy it.”

—Randall Jarrell



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