10 Great Quotes About Poets, Poetry, and Writing by Frederick Seidel

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Photograph Courtesy of Dwayne Szlosek

“Everything in [my] poems is true … you should take them at face value.”

“In the writing of a poem… at a certain moment it has its separate being from you to which you have your obligations. You’re you; it’s it; and eventually, it really will separate from you and be absolutely not yours anymore — even if you made it. It is, of course. But it isn’t. It’s a thing out there.”

“Looking at [my] poems is sometimes an extremely strange experience, as if . . . who the hell wrote this? What’s odd is that, at the same time, I also remember alternative possibilities and associations at the time of the writing of the things. So it’s interesting, that one should have that going on as well. It’s rather a surprise, almost as if it were a surprise that they managed to get done at all.”

“Write beautifully what people don’t want to hear.”

“The expression of aspects of the self that you understand or, rather, that you fancy may not be attractively expressed or attractive once expressed. Another way of talking about this is to talk about your becoming yourself: your finding who you are as a poet, finding what you sound like, finding your subjects that bring you out of you that are your subjects. It’s almost as if there’s a moment when you decide, Well, whatever the problem of writing this way, of writing these things, whatever the difficulty with presenting yourself this way . . . well, that’s it.”

“I like to hear the sound of form, and I like to hear the sound of it breaking.”

“I got back a letter from [an] editor saying that [my] poem was brilliant . . . but wouldn’t I consider a number of changes they wanted to propose to the poem’s advantage? So I took a look at their suggestions, hung onto the poem and three months later sent it back to them — no changes whatsoever. Back came a note saying: ‘Wonderful! That does it! It’s just superb.’ ”

“I was left with myself and had to do the one thing I could to survive. I knew it would be difficult to write, very difficult, but I set about doing it.”

“I like poems that are daggers that sing. I like poems that for all the power of the sentiments expressed, and all the power to upset and offend, are so well made that they’re achieved things. However much they upset you, they also affect you.”

“Sometimes you finish the poem, and that last piece clicks in place. Sometimes the poem is finished with you.”

—Frederick Seidel

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