10 More Great Quotes About Poetry, Writing, and Art by Russell Edson

“Poetry is fun. Why burden it with the humdrum of unexplored memory in the illusion of self expression? At best the poem is an impersonal amusement where the writer and the reader laugh together at finding once again that only reality is the reality of the brain thinking about reality.”

“Just get something on the page, you have nothing to lose except your life, which you’re going to lose anyway. So get with it, enjoy this special moment that brings you to the writing table. Relax into the writing and enjoy the creative bowel movement, remembering all is lost anyway.”

“Poetry is a physical art without a physical presence, so that it often finds itself in cadence to the heartbeat, the thud of days, and in the childish grasp of the reality of rhymes.”

“A good night of writing is like an industrial revolution under a rock being conducted by agitated beetles, where a variety of experimental vehicles and camera-like entertainments are being manufactured at great speed.”

“Anybody who says that his art takes all his time is probably someone whose time doesn’t mean very much.  My advice is to schedule one’s ‘artistic works’ with a job that pays.  This gives time edge and purpose.”

“I write to be entertained, which means surprised. A good many poets write out of what they call experience. This seems deadened. For me the poem itself, the act of writing it, is the experience, not all the dark crap behind it.”

“This kind of invention [prose poetry] calls for a very sure hand, one that can improvise, without too much care for the future, formal structures in a matter of minutes: The kind of form that is built from the inside out….”

“I never write for people, for the unseen audience.  I just write what comes.”

“There’s only the writing, which I admit to knowing very little about. But then it’s probably best not to know. It allows one to work without expectation. Best to let the poem do the thinking while we concern ourselves with what’s called the personal life.”

“The best advice I can give is to ignore advice.  Life is just too short to be distracted by the opinions of others.  The main thing is to get going with your work however you see it.  The beginning writer has only to write to find his art.  It’s not a matter of talent.  We’re all talented.  Desire and patience takes us where we want to go.”

—Russell Edson

10 Great Quotes About Poetry, Writing, and Art by Russell Edson

“Poetry is a way of mind; the exploration of a tunnel, where blind albino fish seem to float in nostalgic pools of unremembered memory.”

“All creative writing is storytelling. The two basic approaches are fiction and poetry. Fiction describes what it means, and poetry becomes what it means in images. Fiction is a linear art made of time, poetry is childishly timeless and circular.”

“If one cannot accept failure and scorn, how is he to make his art? It’s like wanting to go to heaven without dying.”

“One might describe the prose poem (a term I just lately come to accept) as an enviroment of poetry; the prose poem as silly fiction; the prose poem as a way of re-thinking the shape of the earth; the prose poem as a way of entering the mystery of a yet undiscovered prose; the prose poem as a homemade art; the prose poem as a current fad; the prose poem even, for the want of a better name, as something that I write; or, more to the point, the prose poem as something I don’t want to talk about!”

“Remember, words are the enemy of poetry.”

“A lot of poets would do themselves a lot of good if they had another art they messed with – be it painting or whatever.  A lot of our poets, they write, they teach, they write blurbs, they write some criticism, but they never get out of language. To be able to do something else is a nice thing.” 

“The problem with poetry is that it spends so much time scene setting, locating.  Most of my pieces are not really located.  They just happen.”

“No one is a poet for all of his or her life.  One is a poet when one is engaging that way of mind; that is to say, when one is writing.  I would say to a son or daughter, ‘go ahead, it’s as good as anything else; your days are numbered anyway no matter what you do – have fun’.”

“The only difficult thing [about writing] is reaching the end, the idea of the finished piece, the party ending, life runs out, the fire dark, the season that passes through the meadow into winter…. This is why one must work fast, each piece an end in itself, as life, which is only lived in the most present of moments.”

“Writing for me is the fun of discovery. Which means I want to discover something I didn’t know forming on the page. Experience made into an artifact formed with the logic of a dream.  The poem is the experience no matter the background of experience it is drawn from.”

—Russell Edson

10 Great Quotes About Poets, Poetry, and Writing by Joseph Brodsky

“Poetry is rather an approach to things, to life, than it is typographical production.”

“In the business of writing what one accumulates is not expertise but uncertainties. Which is but another name for craft.”

“Poetry is not only the most concise way of conveying the human experience; it also offers the highest possible standards for any linguistic operation.”

“Every individual ought to know at least one poet from cover to cover: if not as a guide through the world, then as a yardstick for the language.”

“Poetry is what is gained in translation.”

“By failing to read or listen to poets, society dooms itself to inferior modes of articulation, those of the politician, the salesman, or the charlatan. In other words, it forfeits its own evolutionary potential. For what distinguishes us from the rest of the animal kingdom is precisely the gift of speech. Poetry is not a form of entertainment and in a certain sense not even a form of art, but it is our anthropological, genetic goal. Our evolutionary, linguistic beacon.”

“A poet is a combination of an instrument and a human being in one person, with the former gradually taking over the latter. The sensation of this takeover is responsible for timbre; the realization of it, for destiny.”

“If a poet has any obligation toward society, it is to write well. Being in the minority, he has no other choice. Failing this duty, he sinks into oblivion. Society, on the other hand, has no obligation toward the poet.”

“In America, a metrical poem is likely to conjure up the idea of the sort of poet who wears ties and lunches at the faculty club. In Russia it suggests the moral force of an art practiced against the greatest personal odds, as a discipline, solitary and intense.”

“Every writing career starts as a personal quest for sainthood, for self-betterment. Sooner or later, and as a rule quite soon, a man discovers that his pen accomplishes a lot more than his soul.”

—Joseph Brodsky

10 Great Quotes About Poets, Poetry, and Writing by Brad Osborne*

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“Poetry is like owning a tuxedo, you get it out for weddings and funerals.”

“Sometimes, a writer’s own words, like kindling, seem small and short-lived. But they may be enough to start a fire in another, and that is all any of us can really hope for.”

“The first question I would ask any poet is, what their favorite poem by another poet is. If they don’t have one, I may well question their desire to be a poet.”

“No one can tell you what to write, what not to write, how to write, when to write, or where to write. And they will certainly never understand anything about why you write. You are given full license to express yourself however, whenever, wherever, about whatever, and why ever you want. I encourage you to push every boundary you find while doing so.”

“The beginning of a poem is like fishing for me. I don’t know exactly what I am after, I just know some worms are getting wet. Hopefully, I’ll get a bite.”

“Writing poetry is like cooking was before electricity. Everything is slow roasted over a fire that must be constantly tended. You can’t microwave a masterpiece.”

“Learning to write is done the same way we learned to run. First crawl, then walk, then run. Crawl out of bed, walk to the desk, and run with an idea.”

“The best poetry elicits moments of anticipation within the reader. Like the feeling in the pit of your stomach when the rollercoaster reaches the top of the hill. Moments when we are scared and excited at the same time, and we become fully engaged in the world around us.”

“Poetry is a crash course in editing. It is where we learn to take the ten words of a thought and turn it into two, in the need to meet phonetic or syllabic meter. It is more about reduction than production. And there is a beauty in that.”

“Not everything we write is a masterpiece. We even suspect that some works will never be good enough for public consumption. But like children, we find it impossible to let them go. It is like ending a bad relationship. We hold onto something that is of no benefit in our lives in order to avoid feeling like the time we spent was wasted.”

—Brad Osborne

*These quotes were taken from the “Tuesday Tidbits” series on Brad’s blog Commonsensibly Speaking with his kind permission.

10 More Great Quotes About Poets, Poetry, and Writing by C.D. Wright

“Poetry is a necessity of life.”

“Almost none of the poetries I admire stick to their labels, native or adopted ones. Rather, they are vagrant in their identifications. Tramp poets, there you go, a new label for those with unstable allegiances.”

“There is an idealism associated with poetry I would not dispel but question. It doesn’t change anything except within. It shifts your insides around.”

“Poetry is not going to reach the numbers of people by which we commonly consider a large audience. It just isn’t a stadium-filler. It could still galvanize people during a crisis, but let’s just say there are two points at which poetry is indispensable to people – at the point of love and the point of death. I’ll second that emotion.”

“I think a book-length poem stands about as good a chance as a collection of individual poems in reaching its field of ears. This does not mean I have not found some of them too daunting to read all the way through, but it would seem there ought to be some ambition on the writer’s part to create a work that would be “a read” all the way through. If not, all the pleasure belongs to the maker, and that in itself is something, an achievement.”

“Writing is a risk and a trust. The best of it lies yonder.”

“Nobody reads poetry, we are told at every inopportune moment. I read poetry. I am somebody. I am the people, too. It can be allowed that an industrious quantity of contemporary American poetry is consciously written for a hermetic constituency; the bulk is written for the bourgeoisie, leaving a lean cut for labor. Only the hermetically aimed has a snowball’s chance in hell of reaching its intended ears. One proceeds from this realization. A staggering figure of vibrant, intelligent people can and do live without poetry, especially without the poetry of their time. This figure includes the unemployed, the rank and file, the union brass, banker, scientist, lawyer, doctor, architect, pilot, and priest. It also includes most academics, most of the faculty of the humanities, most allegedly literary editors and most allegedly literary critics. They do so–go forward in their lives, toward their great reward, in an engulfing absence of poetry–without being perceived or perceiving themselves as hobbled or deficient in any significant way. It is nearly true, though I am often reminded of a Transtromer broadside I saw in a crummy office building in San Francisco:

“If I wanted to understand a culture, my own for instance, and if I thought such an understanding were the basis for a lifelong inquiry, I would turn to poetry first. For it is my confirmed bias that the poets remain the most ‘stunned by existence,’ the most determined to redeem the world in words…”

“Poetry is tribal not material. As such it lights the fire and keeps watch over the flame. Believe me, this is where you get warm again. And naked. This is where you can remember the good times along with the worst; where you are not allowed to forget the worst, else you cannot be healed.”

“Poets are mostly voters and taxpayers, but the alienation of the poet is a common theme. Among poets there are also probably higher than average rates of clutch burnout, job turnover, rooting about, sleep apnea, noncompliance, nervous leg syndrome, depression, litigation, black clothing, and so forth, but this is where we live, or as Leonard Cohen put it, poetry is the opiate of the poets.”

—C.D. Wright

10 More Great Quotes About Poets, Poetry, and Writing From Movies

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“Some celestial event. No… no words. No words to describe it. Poetry! They should’ve sent a poet. So beautiful. So beautiful… I had no idea.”

—Contact (1997)

“Like anything worth writing, it came inexplicably and without method.”

—Stranger Than Fiction (2006)

“Truth is like poetry. And most people f**king hate poetry.”

—The Big Short (2015)

“If it’s bad, I’ll hate it because I hate bad writing. If it’s good I’ll be envious and I’ll hate it all the more. You don’t want the opinion of another writer.”

—Midnight in Paris (2011)

“In a poet’s pocket, you often find the product of an active imagination.”

—Cyrano Bergerac (1950)

“Why is it that the words that we write for ourselves are always so much better than the words we write for others?”

—Finding Forrester (2000)

“Poems are my solace for the eternity which surrounds us all.”

—A Quiet Passion (2016)

“There are no trashy writers, only trashy readers.”

—Reuben, Reuben (2016)

“Poetry doesn’t belong to those who write it; it belongs to those who need it.”

—Il Postino (1994)

“Everything gets revised 4,000 times. There’s no writing. There’s only rewriting.”

—Get Bruce (1999)

10 Great Quotes About Poetry by C.D. Wright

“Poetry is the language of intensity. Because we are going to die, an expression of intensity is justified.”

“Poetry requires deliberate movement in its direction, a filament of faith in its persistence, receptivity to its fundamental worthwhileness. Within its unanesthetized heart there is quite a racket going on. Choices have to be made with respect to every mark. Not every mistake should be erased. Nor shall the unintelligible be left out. Order is there to be wrenched from the tangles of words. Results are impossible to measure. A clearing is drawn around the perimeter as if by a stick with a nail on the end.”

“It is a function of poetry to locate those zones inside us that would be free, and declare them so.”

“Poetry and advertising (the basest mode of which is propaganda) are in direct and total opposition. If you do not use language you are used by it.”

“Poetry helps us to suffer more efficiently.”

“Uniformity, in its motives, its goals, its far-ranging consequences, is the natural enemy of poetry, not to mention the enemy of trees, the soil, the exemplary life therein.”

“I am suggesting that the radical of poetry lies not in the resolution of doubts but in their proliferation.”

“Poetry takes you into the recesses of the language, the neglected corners, cracks and crannies and to the big sky of wonder. It opens the door to a critique without which you have rather boring analytical tools by comparison. To cultivate poetry means to stay with it. Not to abandon hope, but to abide.”

“Readers have to be sought out and won to the light of the page, poem by poem, one by one by one.”

“Poetry seems especially like nothing else so much as itself. Poetry is not like, it is the very lining of the inner life.”

—C.D. Wright

10 Great Quotes About Poets, Poetry, and Writing From Movies

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“I think the greatest harm done the human race has been done by the poets. They keep filling people’s heads with delusions about love… writing about it as if it were a symphony orchestra or a flight of angels.”

—Spellbound (1945)

“Good order, very precise, feeling of the unknown. Fine poetry is the music of mathematics, numbers, singing. You have to look behind the words to understand their meaning.”

—The Good Shepherd (2006)

“In fact, when poetry is combined with ill-groomed hair and eccentric dress, it’s generally fatal.”

—Cold Comfort Farms (1995)

“T. S. Eliot said that the purpose of literature was to turn blood into ink. Well, I tried that. I published five collections of poetry in eight years and I bled like a hemophiliac. Then, somewhere along the way, the blood finally clotted. Over time, the scab became a scar, and now I can scarcely feel the wound. All the arteries and veins are dried out. I no longer turn blood into ink. These days, I turn whiskey into journalism. I haven’t written a poem since 1987.”

—The Hippopotamus (2017)

“Poetry in translations is like taking a shower with a raincoat on.”

—Paterson (2016)

“No thinking – that comes later. You must write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is… to write, not to think!”

Finding Forrester (2000)

“A man writes because he is tormented, because he doubts. He needs to constantly prove to himself and the others that he’s worth something.”

—Stalker (1979)

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”

–Dead Poets’ Society (1989)

“My dear, this is not a country that rewards poetry. This is a country that rewards gas mileage. Besides, people don’t read poetry anymore; they watch television.”

—My Girl 2 (1994)

“A poem needs understanding through the senses. The point of diving in a lake is not immediately to swim to the shore but to be in the lake, to luxuriate in the sensation of water. You do not work the lake out, it is a experience beyond thought. Poetry soothes and emboldens the soul to accept a mystery.”

Bright Star (2011)

10 Great Quotes About Poets, Poetry, and Writing by Horace

“It is not sufficient to merely combine well-chosen words in a well-ordered line.”

“The poet must put on the passion he wants to represent.”

“Poets, the first instructors of mankind, brought all things to the proper native use.”

“It is no great art to say something briefly when one has something to say. However when one has nothing to say, and yet still writes a whole book and makes truth into a liar – I call that an achievement.”

“Every old poem is sacred.”

“Good sense is the foundation and source of all good writing.”

“One gains universal applause when mingling the useful with the entertaining, while delighting and instructing the reader simultaneously.”

“Mediocrity in poets has never been tolerated by either men, or gods, or booksellers.”

“Take back ill-polished stanzas to the anvil.”

“A comic matter cannot be expressed in tragic verse.”

—Horace

10 More Great Quotes About Poets, Poetry, and Writing by Matthea Harvey

“I think all poetry is accessible in a certain sense if you spend enough time with it.”

“I have poetic failures all the time. Many failed poems. I try not to publish those, though some have slipped into each book, since I can’t always tell they’re failures until later… or I don’t want to admit that they are.”

“I do love the prose poem because it’s such a perverse and provocative little box – always asking to be questioned, never giving a straight or definitive answer.”

“Poems can’t help but be personal. Mine are certainly an accurate blueprint of the things I think about, if not a record of my daily life.”

“To be a poet you have to experiment.”

“Poems tend to have instructions for how to read them embedded in their language.”

“I’m all over my poems, even if their relation to my everyday life is that of dream to reality.”

“Read widely (in and outside of your own genre), keep a notebook with you at all times. Do something that scares you every now and then. Try to locate your own frequency, knowing that one year your voice is on AM 532 and the next it’s on FM 92.8.”

“I’m interested in concrete poems – anything that complicates the line between the written and the visual.”

“As a reader I don’t distinguish between confessional and non-confessional work. After all, how do we even know that certain “I” poems are confessional? It’s a tricky business, this correlating of the speaker and the poet.”

—Matthea Harvey