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


“A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it. A good poem helps to change the shape of the universe, helps to extend everyone’s knowledge of himself and the world around him.”

“What I like to do is treat words as a craftsman does his wood or stone or what-have-you, to hew, carve, mold, coil, polish, and plane them into patterns, sequences, sculptures, fugues of sound expressing some lyrical impulse, some spiritual doubt or conviction, some dimly realized truth I must try to reach and realize.”

“The best craftsmanship always leaves holes and gaps… so that something that is not in the poem can creep, crawl, flash or thunder in.”

“I like to think of poetry as statements made on the way to the grave.”

“If you want a definition of poetry, say: Poetry is what makes me laugh or cry or yawn, what makes my toenails twinkle, what makes me want to do this or that or nothing and let it go at that.”

“Poetry is the rhythmic, inevitably narrative, movement from an overclothed blindness to a naked vision that depends in its intensity on the strength of the labour put into the creation of the poetry.”

“Reading one’s own poems aloud is letting the cat out of the bag. You may have always suspected bits of a poem to be overweighted, overviolent, or daft, and then, suddenly, with the poet’s tongue around them, your suspicion is made certain.”

“The best poem is that whose worked-upon unmagical passages come closest, in texture and intensity, to those moments of magical accident.”

“I make one image—though ‘make’ is not the right word; I let, perhaps, an image be ‘made’ emotionally in me and then apply to it what intellectual & critical forces I possess—let it breed another, let that image contradict the first, make, of the third image bred out of the other two together, a fourth contradictory image, and let them all, within my imposed formal limits, conflict.”

“Don’t be too harsh to these poems until they’re typed. I always think typescript lends some sort of certainty: at least, if the things are bad then, they appear to be bad with conviction”

— Dylan Thomas



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


“There is no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting.”

“There’s no money in poetry, but then there’s no poetry in money, either.”

“Every English poet should master the rules of grammar before he attempts to bend or break them.”

“The poet’s first rule must be never to bore his readers; and his best way of keeping this rule is never to bore himself-which, of course, means to write only when he has something urgent to say.”

“Fact is not truth, but a poet who wilfully defies fact cannot achieve truth.”

“To be a poet is a condition rather than a profession.”

“No poem is worth anything unless it starts from a poetic trance, out of which you can be wakened by interruption as from a dream. In fact, it is the same thing.”

“If I thought that any poem of mine could have been written by anyone else, either a contemporary or a forerunner, I should suppress it with a blush; and I should do the same if I ever found I were imitating myself. Every poem should be new, unexpected, inimitable, and incapable of being parodied.”

“I don’t really feel my poems are mine at all. I didn’t create them out of nothing. I owe them to my relations with other people.”

“A perfect poem is impossible. Once it had been written, the world would end.”

— Robert Graves

10 Great Quotes About Poetry and Writing by Maya Angelou


“Poetry puts starch in your backbone so you can stand, so you can compose your life.”

“I’ve had people explain to me what one of my poems meant, and I’ve been surprised that it means that to them. If a person can use a poem of mine to interpret her life or his life, good. I can’t control that. Nor would I want to.”

“What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat,’…. And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.”

“Making a decision to write was a lot like deciding to jump into a frozen lake.”

“Like a pianist runs her fingers over the keys, I’ll search my mind for what to say. Now, the poem may want you to write it. And then sometimes you see a situation and think, ‘I’d like to write about that.’ Those are two different ways of being approached by a poem, or approaching a poem.”

“Poetry is music written for the human voice.”

“I make writing as much a part of my life as I do eating or listening to music.”

“The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.

“When I am writing, I am trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we’re capable of, how we feel, how we lose and stand up, and go on from darkness into darkness. I’m trying for that. But I’m also trying for the language. I’m trying to see how it can really sound.”

“We write for the same reason that we walk, talk, climb mountains or swim the oceans — because we can. We have some impulse within us that makes us want to explain ourselves to other human beings. That’s why we paint, that’s why we dare to love someone- because we have the impulse to explain who we are. Not just how tall we are, or thin… but who we are internally… perhaps even spiritually. There’s something, which impels us to show our inner-souls. The more courageous we are, the more we succeed in explaining what we know.”

— Maya Angelou


10 Great Quotes About Poets, Poetry, and Writing by Sharon Olds

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“Poets are like steam valves, where the ordinary feelings of ordinary people can escape and be shown.”

“Writing or making anything – a poem, a bird feeder, a chocolate cake-has self-respect in it. You’re working. You’re trying. You’re not lying down on the ground, having given up.”

“… to a poet, the human community is like the community of birds to a bird, singing to each other. Love is one of the reasons we are singing to one another, love of language itself, love of sound, love of singing itself, and love of the other birds.”

“Poems come from ordinary experiences and objects, I think. Out of memory – a dress I lent my daughter on her way back to college; a newspaper photograph of war; a breast self-exam; the tooth fairy; Calvinist parents who beat up their children; a gesture of love; seeing oneself naked over age 50 in a set of bright hotel bathroom mirrors.”

“I’m not asking a poem to carry a lot of rocks in its pockets. Just being an ordinary observer and liver and feeler and letting the experience get through you onto the notebook with the pen, through the arm, out of the body, onto the page, without distortion.”

“If I wrote in a sonnet form, I would be distorting. Or if I had some great new idea for line breaks and I used it in a poem, but it’s really not right for that poem, but I wanted it, that would be distorting.”

“Because a poem is not written while running or while answering the phone. It’s written in whatever minutes one has. Sometimes you have half an hour.”

“My poems – I don’t even like the sound of that, in a way. Not that anyone else wrote them. But we know that only people who are really close to us care about our personal experience.”

“Many poets write books. They’ll tell you: Well, I’ve got my next book, but there are two poems I need to write, one about x, one about y. This is a wonder to me.”

“I think that my work is easy to understand because I am not a thinker, I am not a… How can I put it? I write the way I perceive, I guess.”

— Sharon Olds

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


“Don’t write love poems when you’re in love. Write them when you’re not in love.”

“To write a poem you must have a streak of arrogance– not in real life I hope. In real life try to be nice. It will save you a hell of a lot of trouble and give you more time to write.”

“Lucky accidents seldom happen to writers who don’t work. You will find that you may rewrite and rewrite a poem and it never seems quite right. Then a much better poem may come rather fast and you wonder why you bothered with all that work on the earlier poem. Actually, the hard work you do on one poem is put in on all poems. The hard work on the first poem is responsible for the sudden ease of the second. If you just sit around waiting for the easy ones, nothing will come. Get to work.”

“Assuming you can write clear English sentences, give up all worry about communication. If you want to communicate, use the telephone. “

“Never write a poem about anything that ought to have a poem written about it.”

“Don’t write with a pen. Ink tends to give the impression the words shouldn’t be changed.”

“A poet is seldom hard up for advice. The worst part of it all is that sometimes the advice is coming from other poets, and they ought to know better.”

“Scholars look for final truths they will never find. Creative writers concern themselves with possibilities that are always there to the receptive.”

“Say nothing and just make music and you’ll find plenty to say.”

“I think it’s better if you write poems that look like you.”

— Richard Hugo


10 Great Quotes About Poets, Poetry, and Writing by Donald Hall


“Mere literary talent is common; what is rare is endurance, the continuing desire to work hard at writing.”

“Words seem like drops of water in a stream that has its own wholeness and its own motion.”

“I don’t know where a poem comes from until after I’ve lived with it a long time. I’ve a notion that a poem comes from absolutely everything that every happened to you.”

“The form of free verse is as binding and as liberating as the form of a rondeau.”

‘To desire to write poems that endure-we undertake such a goal certain of two things: that in all likelihood we will fail, and if we succeed we will never know it.”

“Today when I begin writing I’m aware: something that I don’t understand drives this engine.”

“If the poet wants to be a poet, the poet must force the poet to revise. If the poet doesn’t wish to revise, let the poet abandon poetry and take up stamp-collecting or real estate.”

“Virtually every beginning poet hurts himself by an addiction to adjectives. Verbs are by far the most important things for poems-especially wonderful tough monosyllables like “gasp” and “cry.” Nouns are the next most important. Adjectives tend to be useless.”

“If our goal is to write poetry, the only way we are likely to be any good is to try to be as great as the best.”

“Poetry is what I’ve done my whole life. And every important thing in my life had found itself into poems.”

— Donald Hall

10 Great Quotes About Poetry and Writing by Marianne Moore


“Poetry is the art of creating imaginary gardens with real toads.”

“Writing is exciting and baseball is like writing. You can never tell with either how it will go.”

“Poetry is all nouns and verbs.”

“There is a great amount of poetry in unconscious fastidiousness.”

“Poetry is a peerless proficiency of the imagination.”

“Any writer overwhelmingly honest about pleasing himself is almost sure to please others.”

“Conscious writing can be the death of poetry.”

“I see no reason for calling my work poetry except that there is no other category in which to put it.”

“Writing is an undertaking for the modest.”

“One writes because one has a burning desire to objectify what it is indispensable to one’s happiness to express.”

— Marianne Moore