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

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