10 More Great Quotes About Poetry, Writing, and Art by Jane Hirshfield

“Poems offer us counter-knowledges. They let us see what is invisible to ordinary looking, and to find in overlooked corners the opulence of our actual lives. Similarly, we usually spend our waking hours trying to be sure of things – of our decisions, our ideas, our choices. We so want to be right. But we walk by right foot and left foot.”

“At another level, though, poems can craft an eraser – we can’t revise the past, but poems allow us some malleability, an increased freedom of response, comprehension, feeling. Choice, what choices are possible for any given person, is another theme that’s run through my work from the start.”

“A certain amount of housekeeping also goes on in my poems. I wash doorknobs, do dishes, mop floors, patch carpets, cook.”

“Any artist, in any field, wants to press deeper, to discover further. Image and sound play are among the strongest colors available to poetry’s palette. For a long time, I’ve wanted to invite in more strangeness, more freedom of imagination. Yet music, seeing, and meaning are also cohering disciplines. They can be stretched, and that is part of poetry’s helium pleasure. But not to the point of breaking.”

“Poetry’s work is the clarification and magnification of being.”

“The ability to name poetry’s gestures and rhetorics isn’t required to write or read them, any more than a painter needs to know the physics of color to bring forward a landscape. The eye and hand and ear know what they need to know. Some of us want to know more, because knowing pleases.”

“One breath taken completely; one poem, fully written, fully read – in such a moment, anything can happen”

“I want to preserve a certain unknowing about my own poems – perhaps because unknowing is in itself a useful poetic thirst. To move the perimeter of saying outside my own boundaries is one reason I write.”

“A poem’s essential discovery can happen at a single sitting. The cascade of discoveries in an essay, or even finding a question worth exploring in one, seems to need roughly the time it takes to plant and harvest a crop of bush beans.”

“I require silence to write the way an apple tree requires winter to make fruit. Being with people is intimate and joyous, but at some point, I’ll wander off by myself. The paradox is that what began in childhood as an act of necessary solitude has led me straight to a life with others, in which I fly to China or Lithuania or northern Minnesota to read my poems and talk with other people who love language made into a lathe on which a life can be tuned and be turned.”

—Jane Hirshfield

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