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The good life, as I conceive it, is a happy life. I do not mean that if you are good you will be happy; I mean that if you are happy you will be good.
Bertrand Russell
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Quotes concerning Poetry


  • If you examine the highest poetry in the light of common sense, you can only say that it is rubbish; and in actual fact you cannot so examine it at all, because there is something in poetry which is not in the words themselves, which is not in the images suggested by the words 'O windy star blown sideways up the sky!' True poetry is itself a magic spell which is a key to the ineffable.
  • The figure a poem makes. It begins in delight and ends in wisdom.
    • Robert Frost The Figure a Poem Makes (1939) Preface to Collected Poems
  • A poet dares be just so clear and no clearer... He unzips the veil from beauty, but does not remove it. A poet utterly clear is a trifle glaring
  • A poet looks at the world somewhat as a man looks at a woman.
  • Many a bard's untimely death
    Lends unto his verses breath;
    Here's a song was never sung:
    Growing old is dying young.
  • My life has been the poem I would have writ,
    But I could not both live and utter it.
    • Henry David Thoreau A Week on the Concord and Marrimack Rivers (1849) My Life Has Been a Poem I Would Have Writ
  • A poet's work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world and stop it from going to sleep.
  • Always be a poet, even in prose.
  • Even when poetry has a meaning, as it usually has, it may be inadvisable to draw it out … and perfect understanding will sometimes almost extinguish pleasure.


  • All poets are superior/ To 'Rithmetic's best guys./ They work with all the Alphabet/ Not just the 'X' and 'y' ~ J. Byron Kennedy
  • A poet must leave traces of his passage, not proof. ~ Rene Char
  • As a poet I hold the most archaic values on earth . . . the fertility of the soil, the magic of animals, the power-vision in solitude, the terrifying initiation and rebirth, the love and ecstasy of the dance, the common work of the tribe. I try to hold both history and the wilderness in mind, that my poems may approach the true measure of things and stand against the unbalance and ignorance of our times. ~ Gary Snyder
  • Children and lunatics cut the Gordian knot which the poet spends his life patiently trying to untie. ~ Jean Cocteau
  • Everything one invents is true, you may be perfectly sure of that. Poetry is as precise as geometry. ~ Gustave Flaubert
  • Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood. ~ T. S. Eliot
  • He lives the poetry that he cannot write. The others write the poetry that they dare not realise. ~ Oscar Wilde
  • He who draws noble delights from sentiments of poetry is a true poet, though he has never written a line in all his life." ~ George Sand
  • I think one of poetry’s functions is not to give us what we want... [T]he poet isn’t always of use to the tribe. The tribe thrives on the consensual. The tribe is pulling together to face the intruder who threatens it. Meanwhile, the poet is sitting by himself in the graveyard talking to a skull. ~ Heather McHugh
  • In Poetry I have a few axioms, and you will see how far I am from their center. I think Poetry should surprise by a fine excess and not by Singularity--it should strike the Reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a Remembrance-l" Its touches of Beauty should never be half way thereby making the reader breathless instead of content: the rise, the progress, the setting of imagery should like the Sun come natural natural too him--shine over him and set soberly although in magnificence leaving him in the Luxury of twilight--but it is easier to think what Poetry should be than to write it--and this leads me on to another axiom. That if Poetry comes not as naturally as the Leaves to a tree it had better not come at all. ~ John Keats, Letter to John Taylor (27 Feb 1818)
  • Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by reason. ~ Novalis
  • Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary. ~ Kahlil Gibran
  • Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash. ~ Leonard Cohen
  • Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful. ~ Rita Dove
  • Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history. ~ Plato
  • Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things. ~ T. S. Eliot
  • Poetry is not an expression of the party line. It's that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public, that's what the poet does. ~ Allen Ginsberg
  • 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. ~ Paul Engle
  • Poetry is plucking at the heartstrings, and making music with them. ~ Dennis Gabor
  • Poetry is the journal of the sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air. Poetry is a search for syllables to shoot at the barriers of the unknown and the unknowable. Poetry is a phantom script telling how rainbows are made and why they go away. ~ Carl Sandburg
  • Poetry is the one place where people can speak their original human mind. It is the outlet for people to say in public what is known in private. ~ Allen Ginsberg
  • Poetry is the opening and closing of a door, leaving those who look through to guess about what is seen during the moment. ~ Carl Sandburg
  • Poetry is the revelation of a feeling that the poet believes to be interior and personal which the reader recognizes as his own. ~ Salvatore Quasimodo
  • Poetry is thoughts that breathe, and words that burn. ~ Thomas Gray
  • Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words. ~ Robert Frost
  • Poetry... should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a remembrance. ~ John Keats
  • Science is for those who learn; poetry, for those who know. ~ Joseph Roux
  • The poem is a little myth of man's capacity of making life meaningful. And in the end, the poem is not a thing we see-it is, rather, a light by which we may see-and what we see is life. ~ Robert Penn Warren
  • 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. ~ Robert Penn Warren
  • There is poetry as soon as we realize that we possess nothing. ~ John Cage
  • There's no poetry in money, but then there's no money in poetry, either. ~ Robert Graves
  • To have great poets, there must be great audiences. ~ Walt Whitman
  • You can tear a poem apart to see what makes it tick... You're back with the mystery of having been moved by words. The best craftsmanship always leaves holes and gaps... so that something that is not in the poem can creep, crawl, flash or thunder in. ~ Dylan Thomas
  • You will find poetry nowhere unless you bring some of it with you. ~ Joseph Joubert
  • I'm a poetry-skipper myself. I don't like to boast, but I have probably skipped more poetry than any other person of my age and weight in this country -- make it any other two persons. This doesn't mean that I hate poetry. I don't feel that strongly about it. It only means that those who wish to communicate with me by means of the written word must do so in prose. ~ Will Cuppy, How to Get From January to December, 1951

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