10 Great Quotes About Poets, Poetry, and Writing By Bruce Smith

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“When the language [of a poem] works to seduce and . . . move us, when it works its blues on us, bounces us and trembles us, makes us swerve from our upright and rational propositions . . . we are thinking and listening at the same time or really listening and not thinking, like a good song does.”

“Write like a lover. Write like you’re leaving yourself for another.”

“Isn’t a book of poems with its thin spine and blank spaces a blunt cutting edge toward what’s left undone and an echo or call or wish to sound the Blank with a few notes? It’s a pathetic furthering through the medium of words and figures, rhythms, and honks and slurs.”

“In jail, poetry was to become something else: a spoon with which to tunnel through the wall. Contrary to what you might expect poetry and books had an impact in the joint.”

“Does anyone who calls themselves a poet have more than a series of strikes and counterstrikes, a succession of vowels and consonants, air obstructed or not, grooves and breaks, and visitations and melancholy fits and carpal tunnel and history and suffering and a poem followed by the next poem sewn into fascicles and put in a box under the bed.“

“Inspiration is for suckers. Talk about process impedes the process. Work the work.”

“When a poem would neither praise nor blame, it ends up praising; its figural language heightens any subject and gives it, in capable hands, a nobility.”

“If a central dilemma of poetry is a compulsion to understand the world versus a desire to see beyond the details, to which side do you belong? ”

“The acoustic qualities of poetry supply a beat, a pulse and a value not found in the semantic values of the words. My relationship to sounds is like my relationship to my kid making noise in the other room; I wish she’d be quiet, but I love her, and I can’t help listening to and being moved by the sounds.”

“Poetry generally is a verbal configuration of personality.”

—Bruce Smith

10 Great Quotes About Poetry and Writing By Pattiann Rogers

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“Often when I write poetry I don’t quite know what I’m saying myself. I mean, I can’t restate the poem. The meaning of the poem is the poem.”

“I think parts of my soul have been saved by my writing, not in the sense of escaping death, but escaping the death of the moment, perhaps.”

“I see my poems as interlinked. No poem gives an answer. It may offer other questions, it may instigate other questions that then become poems.”

“Poetry is very playful with language. I think all poetry, at its heart, is playful. It’s doing unusual and playful things with the language, stirring it up. And prose is not doing that. Primarily it’s not attempting to do that.”

“I have thought for many years that the audience any creative writer imagines has a great effect on what gets written.”

“I’ve spent much of my life being attuned to watching for an image or a phrase that can trigger what might be a poem – could become a poem.”

“I approach writing a poem in a much different state than when I am writing prose. It’s almost as if I were working in a different language when I’m writing poetry. The words – what they are and what they can become – the possibilities of the words are vastly expanded for me when I’m writing a poem.”

“In poetry I can let the language go, allow an image that seems out of place to enter and see what happens, always listening to the music that’s being created, just like the world around us, never predictable, always shifting and intertwining, reflecting and echoing itself.”

“Poetry doesn’t function by saying things straightforwardly because the language is too imprecise, too limited often, to address the underlying subject of most poems.”

“From the beginning, I felt that I didn’t ever want to leave the impression that the process of writing a poem is totally mysterious. I couldn’t explain everything that went on in the creation of a poem, but I could try to explain as much as I knew. I thought readers deserved that. I didn’t want to set myself apart as being someone special.”

—Pattiann Rogers



10 Great Quotes About Poetry and Writing by Naomi Shahib Nye

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“A poem is a cup of words open to the sky and wind in a bucket.”

“Read poems both like and unlike the ones you might write. Read widely, voraciously, open-heartedly. Read work by “others”—however you might define them. If you are a young poet, read work by older poets and vice versa. If you are urban, read poems by rural writers. Obviously, read poems by writers of other ethnicities, religions, etc.”

“The poem is not a closed experience, it remains open. It invites you in, hopefully.”

“For me, the writing process is something related to like exercising your body, taking a walk, stretching. It’s better if you do it on a regular basis. You won’t be as stiff, so all my life I’ve tried to write every day. It doesn’t have to be great. Doesn’t have to be even good. Just keep that pen rolling. Write down you know, whether you’re writing a journal of what’s been happening during the day or signs you saw that day or conversations you overhead.”

“Poetry [is] more necessary than ever as a fire to light our tongues.”

“More of childhood is poetry than adulthood will ever be. For children, the land of metaphor is still very close, very rich and available. Too much analysis of the dry kind ostracized generations of readers. No one listens to a jazz concert and goes out into the parking lot to analyze it. We bask. More basking in poetry has always been needed.”

“The act of writing itself often leads us into thinking in a larger, more universal way, after focusing on or breathing with, beginning with, something grounded and close. A poem “blurs” into that larger space of being on its own, if it is lucky. There is often a little “click” or “shiver” in a poet’s mind, I think, when an experience or a perception begins opening up into something larger – one can feel this during the act of writing, sometimes, or sometimes just as thoughts and images are gathering in the mind. Sometimes there is an impulse of something large first but we have no idea what it is until we begin writing through the scene itself, the details at hand.”

“If a teacher told me to revise, I thought that meant my writing was a broken-down car that needed to go to the repair shop. I felt insulted. I didn’t realize the teacher was saying, ‘Make it shine. It’s worth it.’ Now I see revision as a beautiful word of hope. It’s a new vision of something. It means you don’t have to be perfect the first time. What a relief!”

“I do think that all of us think in poems.”

“Anyone who says, “Here’s my address, write me a poem,” deserves something in reply. So I’ll tell you a secret instead: poems hide. In the bottoms of our shoes, they are sleeping. They are the shadows drifting across our ceilings the moment before we wake up. What we have to do is live in a way that lets us find them.”

— Naomi Shahib Nye

10 Great Quotes About Poets and Poetry by Percy Bysshe Shelley

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“Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar.”

“Poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted”.

“Poets are the hierophants of an unapprehended inspiration; the mirrors of the gigantic shadows which futurity casts upon the present; the words which express what they understand not; the trumpets which sing to battle, and feel not what they inspire; the influence which is moved not, but moves.”

“All high poetry is infinite; it is as the first acorn, which contained all oaks potentially.”

“Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.”

“Poetry is the record of the best and happiest moments of the happiest and best minds.”

“A poet is a nightingale, who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds; his auditors are as men entranced by the melody of an unseen musician, who feel that they are moved and softened, yet know not whence or why.”

“Poetry, in a general sense, may be defined to be ‘the expression of the imagination’: and poetry is connate with the origin of man.”

“I consider poetry very subordinate to moral and political science.”

“A poet, as he is the author to others of the highest wisdom, pleasure, virtue, and glory, so he ought personally to be the happiest, the best, the wisest, and the most illustrious of men.”

—Percy Bysshe Shelley

10 Great Quotes About Poets, Poetry, and Writing by J. Patrick Lewis


“Poetry is the tunnel at the end of the light.”

“The poem is always more important than the poet. Poets biodegrade in short periods of time. If there’s any chance that the poem might have a half-life after the poet’s death, that’s wonderful. Not all of us are so lucky. Most of us return to ash, and so do our books after a short time.”

“Poetry is perfect verbs hunting for elusive nouns.”

“I have always believed that poems beg to be read aloud, even if the reader is in a world all her own.”

“You have to consider that when you’re writing a [biographical] poem, a person’s life has to be distilled. I think of it as a photograph in words of human experience, sort of personified emotion if you will. You know going into it that you don’t have to treat the person’s whole life. You can single out some anecdote of his or her life that speaks to the whole person, and that’s what I try to do. I just love writing biographical poems. I don’t claim that they are in any way competitive with full-blown biographies. But the whole idea is to get people, in reading poetry, to look for that “Aha!” moment, when they sit back and say, ‘Wow, I never thought of it that way before.’ ”

“Poetry is prose, bent out of shape.”

“You get up every day, saying to yourself you’re going to write great poetry. It doesn’t matter if you fail. The point is that you’re trying. If you’re not trying to write great poetry, if you’re satisfied to write middling poetry, then what is the point? “

“The reason I [rhyme] is that sound is every bit as important as sense.”

“I would say as far as choosing between free verse and rhyme, often times if I’m writing about a serious subject, I will choose free verse because free verse is invariably not funny. If you’re writing nonsense, half of the delight is the sound, is the rhyme. So I wouldn’t try and write a funny poem in free verse. I suppose it’s been done, but certainly not very often.”

“If poetry uses words in a way that nobody else has used them before, it has a chance of living on for a little while.”

— J. Patrick Lewis

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

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“A lot of people are writing poems and don’t realize it. They have this limited idea of how the poem should sound or what subjects it should address.”

“Poetic success is when you write a poem that makes you excited and bewildered and aglow.”

“If I begin a poem, “I am a donkey,” reason kicks in and says, “She is taking on the persona of a donkey.” But if I write, “I have taken so many drugs I can’t see my feet,” the tendency is to take that as a confession on the part of the poet. Maybe that doesn’t matter. I’d almost prefer for it to be the other way round.”

“Usually form seems to find me in the process of writing a poem, though I have nothing against starting out with the form.”

“Writing a poem is always a process of subtracting: you start with all of language available to you, and you choose a smaller field.”

“In my own writing, I’ve mostly abandoned end-rhyme, but wordplay is still a huge part of my process.”

“Writing directly from a feeling of anger or sadness is difficult, but if you distract part of your brain with word games, the ignored emotion often tiptoes in.”

“I don’t think all poems need to be written in conversational language – those are often great poems but there should also be poems of incoherent bewilderment and muddled mystery.”

“I write poems from dreams pretty frequently. It’s limiting to think the poem has to come from a sensical lyric “I” stating things clearly or dramatically. This whole course is trying to say there are millions of ways to approach writing a poem.”

“When I start writing a poem, I can usually know quite early on whether it’s a lineated or prose poem, but I don’t think I can explain how. It’s like deciding whether to wear a skirt or a pair of pants.”

Matthea Harvey

10 Great Quotes About Poets, Poetry, and Writing by Robert Penn Warren


“How do poems grow? They grow out of your life.”

“Real writers are those who want to write, need to write, have to write.”

“The urge to write poetry is like having an itch. When the itch becomes annoying enough, you scratch it.”

“If anybody’s going to be a writer, he’s got to be able to say, “This has got to come first, to write has to come first.” That is, if you have a job, you have to scant your job a little bit. You can’t be an industrious apprentice if you’re going to be a poet. You’ve got to pretend to be an industrious apprentice but really steal time from the boss. Or from your wife, or somebody, you see. The time’s got to come from somewhere. And also this passivity, this “waitingness,” has to be achieved some way. It can’t be treated as a job. It’s got to be treated as a non-job or an anti-job.”

“The poem is a little myth of man’s capacity of making life meaningful.”

“The poet is in the end probably more afraid of the dogmatist who wants to extract the message from the poem and throw the poem away than he is of the sentimentalist who says, “Oh, just let me enjoy the poem.””

“For what is a poem but a hazardous attempt at self-understanding: it is the deepest part of autobiography.”

“You have to be willing to waste time. When you start a poem, stay with it and suffer through it and just think about nothing, not even the poem. Just be there. It’s more of a prayerful state than writing the novels is. A lot of the novel is in doing good works, as it were, not praying. And the prayerful state is just being passive with it, mumbling, being around there, lying on the grass, going swimming, you see. Even getting drunk. Get drunk prayerfully, though.”

“The poem is not a thing we see; it is, rather, a light by which we may see.”

—Robert Penn Warren