10 Great Quotes About Poets, Poetry, and Writing by Richard Wilbur

“Writing is? Waiting for the word that may not be there until next Tuesday.”

“If a good poem has an air of spontaneity, it has that air because the poet has been careful, in his slow and choosy writing of the poem, to keep in touch with its original impulse. And one must try to do that, one must try to keep the poem seeming sudden and abrupt even though it has been slowly contrived.”

“Sometimes very strong feelings don’t get written up because the interesting metaphor or dramatic situation doesn’t suggest itself. So much of one’s life goes unused.”

“When a poet is being a poet — that is, when he is writing or thinking about writing — he cannot be concerned with anything but the making of a poem. If the poem is to turn out well, the poet cannot have thought of whether it will be saleable, or of what its effect on the world should be; he cannot think of whether it will bring him honor, or advance a cause, or comfort someone in sorrow. All such considerations, whether silly or generous, would be merely intrusive; for, psychologically speaking, the end of writing is the poem itself.”

“Step off assuredly into the blank of your mind. Something will come to you.”

“I write poems line by line, very slowly; I sometimes scribble alternative words in the margins rather densely, but I don’t go forward with anything unless I am fairly satisfied that what I have set down sounds printable, sayable. I proceed as Dylan Thomas once told me he proceeded—it is a matter of going to one’s study, or to the chair in the sun, and starting a new sheet of paper. On it you put what you’ve already got of a poem you are trying to write. Then you sit and stare at it, hoping that the impetus of writing out the lines that you already have will get you a few lines farther before the day is done. I often don’t write more than a couple of lines in a day of, let’s say, six hours of staring at the sheet of paper. Composition for me is, externally at least, scarcely distinguishable from catatonia.”

“Writing poetry is talking to oneself; yet it is a mode of talking to oneself in which the self disappears; and the product’s something that, though it may not be for everybody, is about everybody.”

“That’s the main business of the poem!-to see if you can’t make up a language that sets all your selves talking at once-all of them being fair to each other.”

“I’m grateful to all of the poets of the past who have delighted me, and who gave me a feeling that I wanted to do something like that. And if there is a muse, I’m grateful to the muse for the occasional experience of making something as good as I wanted it to be.”

“It is true that the poet does not directly address his neighbors; but he does address a great congress of persons who dwell at the back of his mind, a congress of all those who have taught him and whom he has admired; they constitute his ideal audience and his better self.”

—Richard Wilbur


8 thoughts on “10 Great Quotes About Poets, Poetry, and Writing by Richard Wilbur

  1. “”Writing poetry is talking to oneself”is exactly what I’ve said in the past. It is a part of myself I never talk to unless I’m writing or doing art and when in conversation with it, I am almost always the listener and transcriber while it tells me things I would otherwise never know or experience.

    Liked by 1 person

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