10 Great Quotes About Poets, Poetry, and Art by Carol Ann Duffy


For me, poetry is the music of being human. And also a time machine by which we can travel to who we are and to who we will become.

You can find poetry in your everyday life, your memory, in what people say on the bus, in the news, or just what’s in your heart.

Poets deal in writing about feelings and trying to find the language and images for intense feelings.

I like to use simple words, but in a complicated way.

I write quite a lot of sonnets, and I think of them almost as prayers: short and memorable, something you can recite.

Like the sand and the oyster, it’s a creative irritant. In each poem, I’m trying to reveal a truth, so it can’t have a fictional beginning.

I see the shape of the poem before I start writing, and the writing is just the process of arriving at the shape.

I have piles of poetry books in the bathroom, on the stairs, everywhere. The only way to write poetry is to read it.

I think all poets must feel this: that there is constantly something new to be discovered in the language. It’s like a thrilling encounter, and you can find things.

The poem is a form of texting… it’s the original text. It’s a perfecting of a feeling in language – it’s a way of saying more with less, just as texting is.

–Carol Ann Duffy



Invented Poetry Forms – The Rothko

rothko colors

Having received such a seemingly enthusiastic response to my last post on the pollock, I decided to follow it up with yet another poetic form inspired by an abstract expressionist visual artist – the rothko. Created by poet Bob Holman who named the form after the painter Mark Rothko, it is a three-line poem with each line consisting of three words. Emulating Rothko (who was notorious for his bold use of color), the poem must contain the names of three different hues. These colors have to appear in the poem in either a horizontal, vertical or diagonal line (much like in tic-tac-toe). Another one of Holman’s rules for writing a rothko is that it can only be written while standing in front of an actual Rothko painting. Because of the difficulty for most poets to follow this, I think it is definitely permissible to ignore that particular rule. Instead, I found images of Rothko’s masterpieces online, and used them as my inspiration for the following examples:

Chasing Spring

Frisky black spaniels
Pursue grey squirrels
Through green grass

The Leaf Peepers

Everywhere they seek
Heralds of autumn –
Red, Orange, Yellow

Our Daily Quarrel

Verbal purple explosions
Puncturing white hush
Of amber afternoons

Tragedy on the First Day of School

Blue skies above,
Yellow bus runs
Red stop sign

Endless Mourning

Beige bones buried
Under umber earth –
Grief      so      black

Invented Poetry Forms – The Pollock

paint splatter (3).jpg

The Pollock is a rather obscure and fairly eccentric poetry form invented by poet and art critic John Yau to pay tribute to the American abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollock. It is a fourteen-line poem with the rather unusual requirement that the first line must be a quotation by the artist. The remaining thirteen lines consist strictly of words from Pollock’s quote, the idea being to splatter words repeatedly on the page like he famously did with paint on his canvases. Although the form might sound restrictive and totally wacko, I actually found it a real blast to write. Interestingly, another one of the rules of writing a pollock is to break the rules any time you feel like it (much like Pollock did with his painting). So it is more than permissible to substitute one of your favorite quotes by someone else for the Pollock quotation (perhaps even a clever quip by a poet that was previously posted on this blog). However, in my attempt which you will find below, I decided to stay a purist, and utilize Pollock’s response during an interview when asked “How do you know when you’re finished painting?” He simply replied, “How do you know when you’re finished making love?”:

Making Love (a Pollock)

How do you know when you’re finished making love?
When you’re making love, you know.
You know when you’re making love,
you know how you’re making love.
You know when you’re finished.
You love making love,
you know you do.
When making love, you know love.
you know you.
You love love,
you love you,
love making you you.
How do you do, Love,
how do you do?

So what do you think of the pollock? Is it a form you would like to try or wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole? Ironically, for a poetry form inspired by a visual artist, I personally feel (that because of the repetition of words and its resulting musicality) pollocks sound much better read out loud than they look written on the page. Keep that in mind if you do decide to write one (perhaps you can read yours at a local poetry open mic, something I honestly believe that every poet should do every once in a while).

10 More Great Quotes About Poets, Poetry, and Writing by Thomas Lux


“Poetry exists because there is no other way to say the things that get said in good poems except in poems. There is something about the right combination of metaphor or image connected to the business of being alive that only poems can do. To me, it makes me feel more alive, reading good poetry.”

“Writing is rewriting, writing is revision. Historically, all great works have been labored over.”

“I envy painters… I like the fact that they make one thing, and it’s a single object, and there’s only one, ever. A poem isn’t as valuable an object because a Xerox of the poem is the same as a zillion other Xeroxes. It doesn’t exist as an individual object.”

“I don’t think there’s ever been a time when poetry has been healthier or had a better chance of winning back a fair share of the audience that was essentially lost because poetry was incomprehensible and made people feel stupid, the kind of poetry that most of us grew up on in school, poems that never meant what they said. They were some kind of riddle that you had to decipher, and the point of reading poetry was like taking a test—to decipher the riddle. No wonder a lot of people—several generations of Americans—hated poetry. And that’s beginning to change.”

“There’s a difference between writing poetically and writing poetry.”

“I write some poems about myself but not many. In a sense, all poems are autobiographical—no matter what the subject, they show what the poet feels about the world, what he/she hates, loves, quarrels with, and fears.”

“I do think there is room for humor in poetry. Life includes humor. Why not poetry? And it’s not oxymoronic that humorous poetry can be serious.”

“I don’t particularly believe in inspiration. I believe you need to feel something intensely enough to need to write a poem that might be telling you you need to try to write it.”

“The ideal reader is any reader who gets a little pleasure or, depending on the poem, gets pissed off.”

“A lot of poets don’t read their work well, don’t write their work with the intention of it being read out loud, but they still do readings, for the check, obviously, but nothing is duller than a monotone reading of work that’s essentially incomprehensible—and there’s a lot of that. I would rather have lit matches stuck in my ear.”

—Thomas Lux



10 More Great Quotes About Poets, Poetry, and Writing by Robert Graves


“Poetry began in the matriarchal age, and derives its magic from the moon, not from the sun. No poet can hope to understand the nature of poetry unless he has had a vision of the Naked King crucified to the lopped oak, and watched the dancers, red-eyed from the acrid smoke of the sacrificial fires, stamping out the measure of the dance, their bodies bent uncouthly forward, with a monotonous chant of “Kill! kill! kill!” and “Blood! blood! blood!”

“The poet avoids the entire vocabulary of logic unless for satiric purposes, and treats words as living creatures with a preference for those with long emotional histories dating from mediaeval times. Poetry at its purest is, indeed, a defiance of logic.”

“A poet’s destiny is to love.”

“Nine-tenths of English poetic literature is the result either of vulgar careerism or of a poet trying to keep his hand in. Most poets are dead by their late twenties.”

“I revise the manuscript till I can’t read it any longer, then I get somebody to type it. Then I revise the typing. Then it’s retyped again. Then there’s a third typing, which is the final one. Nothing should then remain that offends the eye.”

“Prose books are the show dogs I breed and sell to support my cat.”

“The award of a pure gold medal for poetry would flatter the recipient unduly: no poem ever attains such carat purity. “

“Never use the word ‘audience.’ The very idea of a public, unless the poet is writing for money, seems wrong to me. Poets don’t have an ‘audience’. They’re talking to a single person all the time.”

“Poetry is no more a narcotic than a stimulant; it is a universal bittersweet mixture for all possible household emergencies and its action varies accordingly as it is taken in a wineglass or a tablespoon, inhaled, gargled or rubbed on the chest by hard fingers covered with rings.”

“Though philosophers like to define poetry as irrational fancy, for us it is practical, humorous, reasonable way of being ourselves.”

— Robert Graves

10 Great Quotes About Poets, Poetry, and Writing by Thomas Lux

Brass Lock & Comic Books

“I love mystery, strangeness, nuttiness, wildness, leaps across chasms, irreverence, all the crazy stuff we love about poetry. We don’t usually love poems because they are well made, or smart, or deep. We love them for their crazy hearts.”

“Writing is 80% reading.”

“It most matters to me what a poem sounds like. I think line breaks are incredibly important—they are one of the most important ways one tries to make the reader hear the poem exactly as one wants the reader to hear it. Tone, which carries a lot of the reverberations one is hoping to catch, can really only be heard.”

“No poem ever bought a hamburger, or not too many.”

“I emphasize the same things I would if I were teaching a HS [High School] class: clarity, imagination, originality (no clichés, ever!), little or no abstractions, very few adverbs, strong active verbs, as much music as possible (the endless variations of rhyme and cadence, the dance between stressed and unstressed syllables), a little mischief sometimes, honesty, revision, revision, revision, and read, read, read.”

“Dispel the notion that poetry is something that just comes down your arm and you write.”

“I think most often a poem begins for me with an image, a rhythm, a little hint of something that might have metaphorical possibilities. Something one sees, hears, pops into one’s head, pops out of reading—something that seems worth exploring. Like the bear who goes over the mountain: to see what he can see.”

“Everybody knows that for a ballet dancer, in order to make a gazelle-like leap, you have to practice for years to do that. For a piano player, it takes years of practicing to make it look easy. You can’t sit down and just play. But people think because they have language, if they have feelings and they put them down, they have a poem.”

“Making poems rhythmical and musical and believable as human speech and as distilled and tight as possible is very important to me.”

“Facts are irrelevant. A poet’s job is to try to tell the truth. You can bend, change, invent facts all you want to try to do so.”

—Thomas Lux

10 Great Quotes About Poets, Poetry, and Writing by Ted Kooser

rock shark.JPG

“A poem is the record of a discovery, either the discovery of something in the world, or within one’s self, or perhaps the discovery of something through the juxtaposition of sounds and sense within our language. Our job as poets is to set down the record of those discoveries in such a way that our readers will make the discoveries theirs and will delight in them.”

“Any well-made poem is worth a whole lot more to the world than the person who wrote it.”

“The poem is the device through which the ordinary world is seen in a new way – engaging, compelling, even beautiful.”

“There’s nothing wrong with delighting in what you do. In fact, most of the fun you’ll have as a poet will come about during the process of writing.”

“Keeping a journal is like taking good care of one’s heart.”

“There are those who think poets are more sensitive than other people, more keenly aware of the world, but most of the poets I now are just as oblivious to what’s happening around them as is the rest of the population.”

“I farm a little plot of things to say, with not much frontage on the busy road.”

“I like the poem on the page and not at the podium. I like to address the poem in peace and quiet, not on the edge of a folding chair with a full bladder.”

“In my work, I really try to look at ordinary things quite closely to see if there isn’t a little bit of something special about them. I’m trying to make something as nearly perfect as I can out of words.”

“Valentine’s Day is the poet’s holiday.”

—Ted Kooser