10 Great Quotes About Poets, Poetry, and Writing by Paul Engle


“Poetry is ordinary language raised to the Nth power.”

“Poetry is boned with ideas, nerved and blooded with emotions, all held together by the delicate, tough skin of words.”

“Writing is rewriting what you have rewritten.”

“All poetry is an ordered voice, one which tries to tell you about a vision in the un-visionary language of farm, city, and love.

“But maybe it’s up the hills or under the leaves or in a ditch somewhere. Maybe it’s never found. But what you find, whatever you find, is only part of the missing, and writing is the way the poet finds out what it is he found.”

“I wanted to write poetry almost a little more than I wanted to eat.”

“Verse is not written, it is bled; Out of the poet’s abstract head. Words drip the poem on the page; Out of his grief, delight and rage.”

“Writing is like this — you dredge for the poem’s meaning the way police dredge for a body. They think it is down there under the black water, they work the grappling hooks back and forth.”

“The years rolled their brutal course down the hill of time. Still poor, my clothes still smelling of the horse barn, still writing those doubtful poems where too much emotion clashed with too many words”.

“Has the painter not always gone to an art school, or at least to an established master, for instruction? And the composer, the sculptor, the architect? Then why not the writer? Good poets, like good hybrid corn, are both born and made.”

—Paul Engle


Invented Poetry Forms – The Two-by-Four


The two-by-four is a rather quirky eight-word poetic form invented by the American poet and book publisher Lee Ann Brown, which I originally discovered on pages 100 and 101 of her first book of poetry “Polyverse” published in 1999. As its name indicates, the form consists of four lines of two words apiece, and may or may not rhyme (only one of Brown’s eleven two-by-fours in her book does). There is no restriction on subject matter, and the form itself can be very versatile, but the poem’s main emphasis should be on whimsical, creative, and often experimental usage of language and wordplay. Although the original poems by Lee Ann did not have individual titles, I prefer to title my own two-by-fours to help identify and set up each poem’s premise (otherwise, I am afraid readers would be scratching their heads trying to figure out what they are all about). Like many of the other weird and offbeat poetry forms I have written about in the past, I find the two-by-four to be quite delightful and amusing to play and tinker with, and hope my following examples might inspire you to try writing some of your own:

Collective Optimism

Everybody believes
The world
Will not
End tomorrow

Scuttling the Scuttlebutt

You say
They say
I hear
Just hearsay

Consultation With My Chiropractor

She says
“too tense”-
I picture
Simultaneous wigwams

Going Dutch

Salty licorice
Candy sandwiches
Three kisses
Wooden shoes

On the Midway at the 1979 Iowa State Fair

Sellers of
Ginzu knives
Deftly wielding
Singsong spiels

Fashion Tip No. 9
(According to My Girlfriend)

Matching socks
Are required
Only for
Fancy places

Stalking the Wild Poem

Elusive thoughts
And emotions
Caught in
Verbal cages

Telegraphic Choreography

Morris (code)
Dancing – polka
Dots and
Conga lines

Playing a Hunch(back)

Spinal intuition
Tells me
Notre Dame
Will win

In Celebration of Mr. Presley’s Controversial
Appearance on the Milton Berle Television Show
(June 5th, 1956)

Flagrant undulations
Rocking p(Elvis)
Rolling Hip
Hip hurray!!!

10 Great Quotes About Poets and Poetry by Ralph Waldo Emerson


“Only poetry inspires poetry.”

“Painting was called silent poetry and poetry speaking painting.”

“Everything in creation has its appointed painter or poet and remains in bondage like the princess in the fairy tale ’til its appropriate liberator comes to set it free.”

“Every word was once a poem.”

“It does not need that a poem should be long. Every word was once a poem.”

“Poetry must be as new as foam and as old as the rock.”

“Good poetry could not have been otherwise written than it is. The first time you hear it, it sounds rather as if copied out of some invisible tablet in the Eternal mind than as if arbitrarily composed by the poet.”

“For poetry was all written before time was, and whenever we are so finely organized that we can penetrate into that region where the air is music, we hear those primal warblings, and attempt to write them down, but we lose ever and anon a word, a verse, and substitute something of our own, and thus miswrite the poem.”

“For it is not metres, but a metre-making argument that makes a poem.”

“The true poem is the poet’s mind.”

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

10 Great Quotes About Poets, Poetry, and Writing by Philip Larkin


“It is fatal to decide, intellectually, what good poetry is because you are then in honour bound to try to write it, instead of the poems that only you can write.”

“Poetry should begin with emotion in the poet, and end with the same emotion in the reader. The poem is simply the instrument of transference.

“I never think of poetry or the poetry scene, only separate poems written by individuals. The poetic impulse is distinct from ideas about things or feelings about things, though it may use these. It’s more like a desire to separate a piece of one’s experience & set it up on its own, an isolated object never to trouble you again, at least not for a bit. In the absence of this impulse nothing stirs.”

“Novels are about other people and poems are about yourself.”

“As a guiding principle I believe that every poem must be its own sole freshly created universe, and therefore have no belief n ‘tradition’ or a common myth-kitty or casual allusions in poems to other poems or poets, which last I find unpleasantly like the talk of literary understrappers letting you see they know the right people.”

“I think a young poet, or an old poet, for that matter, should try to produce something that pleases himself personally, not only when he’s written it but a couple of weeks later. Then he should see if it pleases anyone else, by sending it to the kind of magazine he likes reading.”

“If you tell a novelist, ‘Life’s not like that’, he has to do something about it. The poet simply replies, ‘No, but I am.”

“I think we got much better poetry when it was all regarded as sinful or subversive, and you had to hide it under the cushion when somebody came in.”

“Poetry is an affair of sanity, of seeing things as they are.”

“When I get sent manuscripts from aspiring poets, I do one of two things: if there is no stamped self-addressed envelope, I throw it into the bin.-If there is, I write and tell them to f**k off.”

— Philip Larkin 

10 Great Quotes About Poets, Poetry, and Art by Jean Cocteau

color bottles elm park

“Children and lunatics cut the Gordian knot which the poet spends his life patiently trying to untie.”

“I know that poetry is indispensable, but to what I could not say.”

“The job of the poet (a job which can’t be learned) consists of placing those objects of the visible world which have become invisible due to the glue of habit, in an unusual position which strikes the soul and gives them a tragic force.”

“There are poets and there are grownups.”

“The poet, by composing poems, uses a language that is neither dead nor living, that few people speak, and few people understand … We are the servants of an unknown force that lives within us, manipulates us, and dictates this language to us.”

“The poet is a liar who always speaks the truth.”

“Every poem is a coat of arms. It must be deciphered. How much blood, how many tears in exchange for these axes, these muzzles, these unicorns, these torches, these towers, these martlets, these seedlings of stars and these fields of blue!”

“The poet doesn’t invent. He listens.”

“With the writer, line takes precedence over form and content. It runs through the words he assembles. It strikes a continuous note unperceived by ear or eye. It is, in a way, the soul’s style, and if the line ceases to have a life of its own, if it only describes an arabesque, the soul is missing and the writing dies.”

“A true poet does not bother to be poetical. Nor does a nursery gardener scent his roses.”

—Jean Cocteau

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