John Hollander

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John Hollander (October 28, 1929 – August 17, 2013) was an American poet and literary critic.


  • Poetry may be written on paper, but it’s an oral art.A good poem satisfies the ear .It creates a story or picture that grabs you.
    • Quoted in 'Venerable Poets :Words to Pop Music beat 'by Cynthia Wolfe Boyton.
  • Rhythm and repetition of sounds, words and phrases make spoken poetry sound different to ordinary discourse.
  • Reading a poem aloud by someone who understands it, can be a crucial experience, but better yet is reading it aloud oneself.
  • Reciting a poem aloud, you are not like an actor, rather you come to understand, then to be, the voice of the poem itself.
  • The more you understand a poem and its complexities and depth, the more you will be able to do when reading it aloud.
  • Central also to reading verse aloud is the handling of enjambment, ..the interplay of line-end and sentence-flow.
  • Contrastive stress is very important in English, as poems are full of invisible italicised contrasts of this kind.
    • introduction-John Hollander ed.'Committed to Memory' Riverhead Books New York 1996 ISBN 1573226467
  • Not being a philosopher I've had to work through my feelings and puzzlements in poems.
  • A teacher (of poetry) has to know and feel what poetry is , and be able - and this is crucial- to read it aloud effectively.
    • 'A Conversation with John Hollander' (by email) by Paul Devlin vol 1 St. John's University Humanities Review April 2003
  • I revise very little. I always write in long hand and revise when I type. I test them out when I read them aloud.
  • Inspiration comes within a framework. A poem that gets out of hand is not a poem.
  • I usually seem to finish a poem when I write it down. I may have been carrying the notion around in my head.
  • I find free verse very, very difficult to write.
  • Great poems are all fables about life.
  • Ultimately poetic thought is interpretive.
  • You can teach the writing of instrument..and the recognition of true poetry. The rest, writers must teach themselves.
    • Interview with J D McCarthy 'The Art of Poetry' no 35 Fall 1985
  • Metre is to rhythm as eye is to ear.
    • 'Vision and Resonance:Two senses of Poetic Form' OUP London 1975
  • English Prosody has tended to be a subject for cranks.
    • Derek Attridge 'Review of 'Vision and Resources' MLR vol.72 no 3 July 1977
  • The warfare between poetry and philosophy certainly started with Plato, who was both poet and philosopher.
  • Major poetry not only 'employs' metaphor, irony and other tropes (and is of them) but always and explicitly or implicitly considers the nature of the trope itself.
  • For the poet, the biblical sense of 'know' is as much part of nature as the heat of fire, and in the cognative sense as much a given phenomonen as the brightness itself.
  • The large (in English) unphilosophical, 'poetic' or 'religious' questions are elicited from their precise and technical microcosms.
  • One crosses the brink of literalness into poetry by desiring , noticing, fixing on something and wondering what to make of it.
    • Review of 'Stanley Cavell and the Claim to Reason' Critical Inquiry, vol 6, no 4 Summer 1980 U of C P
  • 'Poetic form' is a very deep matter that covers much more than phonological or typological pattern.
  • Poetic form is an abstraction from. or residue of musical form. The ghost of oral poetry never vanishes therefrom.All poetry was originally oral.
  • The study of rhetoric distiguishes between tropes, or figuresvof meaning such as metaphor and metonymy, and schemes, or surface patterns of words. Poetry is a matter of trope; and verse, of scheme or design.
  • The blueprints of verse can be used to build things made of literal, or nonpoetic material, which is why most verse is not poetry.
  • The building blocks of poetry itself are elements if fiction -fable, 'image', metaphor-all the material if the nonliteral.
    • 'Rhymes's Reason':a guide to English Verse Yale University Press, 1981
  • Very few writers of verse can read their work to keep their listeners aware of the beauty of sense, that sense of beauty from the powerful , delicate ways in which sense is made by poetry.
    • 'Poetry' September 1995

Poetry Quotes[edit]

  • We and the trees and the way
    Back from the fields of play
    Lasted as long as we could
    No more walks in the wood
    • Extract-last verse from 'An Old Fashioned Song' in 'Tesserae and other poems' (1993)
  • Winter wields only the spades, Summer brandishes
    Hot, black clubs, Spring shower hearts about and Autumn shows
    A fall of diamonds in our climate of extremes
    • Extract from 'Powers of Thirteen'(1983)

Quotes about Hollander[edit]

  • Hollander's poems span the full range of human emotions and must be counted among the most sophisticated productions of the human mind.
    • 'A Conversation with John Hollander' Interview(by email) Paul Devlin vol 1, St. John's University Humanities Review April 2003
  • Since he (Hollander) is a poet himself..he conveyed a passion for that knowledge as a source of current inspiration.
    • Karl Kirchway,' At Yale, lessons in writing and life' NY Times October 15 ,2010

External link[edit]

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