10 Great Quotes About Poets, Poetry, and Writing by J. Patrick Lewis


“Poetry is the tunnel at the end of the light.”

“The poem is always more important than the poet. Poets biodegrade in short periods of time. If there’s any chance that the poem might have a half-life after the poet’s death, that’s wonderful. Not all of us are so lucky. Most of us return to ash, and so do our books after a short time.”

“Poetry is perfect verbs hunting for elusive nouns.”

“I have always believed that poems beg to be read aloud, even if the reader is in a world all her own.”

“You have to consider that when you’re writing a [biographical] poem, a person’s life has to be distilled. I think of it as a photograph in words of human experience, sort of personified emotion if you will. You know going into it that you don’t have to treat the person’s whole life. You can single out some anecdote of his or her life that speaks to the whole person, and that’s what I try to do. I just love writing biographical poems. I don’t claim that they are in any way competitive with full-blown biographies. But the whole idea is to get people, in reading poetry, to look for that “Aha!” moment, when they sit back and say, ‘Wow, I never thought of it that way before.’ ”

“Poetry is prose, bent out of shape.”

“You get up every day, saying to yourself you’re going to write great poetry. It doesn’t matter if you fail. The point is that you’re trying. If you’re not trying to write great poetry, if you’re satisfied to write middling poetry, then what is the point? “

“The reason I [rhyme] is that sound is every bit as important as sense.”

“I would say as far as choosing between free verse and rhyme, often times if I’m writing about a serious subject, I will choose free verse because free verse is invariably not funny. If you’re writing nonsense, half of the delight is the sound, is the rhyme. So I wouldn’t try and write a funny poem in free verse. I suppose it’s been done, but certainly not very often.”

“If poetry uses words in a way that nobody else has used them before, it has a chance of living on for a little while.”

— J. Patrick Lewis

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