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Poetry is the only place where you get an individual person telling his subjective truth, what he really thinks, as distinct from what he wants people to think he thinks.
~ Allen Ginsberg
The poet can say what he really thinks, authentically, and that’s the advantage, and it’s longer-lasting than the immediate radio-broadcast or television-broadcast, because a poem is like a radio that can broadcast continually, for thousands of years.
~ Allen Ginsberg
A poet should leave traces of his passage, not proofs. Traces alone engender dreams. ~ René Char

Poetry is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning. Works of poetry are called poems, and those who author poems are called poets.

I am no poet, but if you think for yourselves, as I proceed, the facts will form a poem in your minds. ~ Michael Faraday

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  • You will never be alone with a poet in your pocket.
    • John Adams, letter to John Quincy Adams (14 May 1781).
  • The crown of literature is poetry.
  • Poetry is finer and more philosophical than history; for poetry expresses the universal, and history only the particular.
  • Of the many definitions of poetry, the simplest is still the best: 'memorable speech'.
    • W. H. Auden, introduction to The Poet's Tongue (1935), p. v.


  • Poetry is itself a thing of God;
    He made his prophets poets; and the more
    We feel of poesie do we become
    Like God in love and power,—under-makers.
  • All poetry is misrepresentation.
    • Jeremy Bentham, An Aphorism attributed to him according to John Stuart Mill (see Mill's essay On Bentham and Coleridge in Utilitarianism edt. by Mary Warnock p. 123).
  • As part of the spring ritual of National Poetry Month, poets are symbolically dragged into the public square in order to be humiliated with the claim that their product has not achieved sufficient market penetration and must be revived by the Artificial Resuscitation Foundation (ARF) lest the art form collapse from its own incompetence, irrelevance, and as a result of the general disinterest among the broad masses of the American People. The motto of ARF's National Poetry Month is: "Poetry's not so bad, really."
  • Poetry must find ways of breaking distance. … all languages are dialects that are made to break new grounds.
  • A poet rises while falling. It’s the rising in the falling that makes him rise posthumously.
  • Poetry worthy of its name is measured by the degree of abstention, of refusal, it implies, and that negative component of its nature must be maintained as essential: it balks at tolerating anything already seen, heard, agreed upon, at using anything already used except when diverting it from its previous function.
  • By failing to read or listen to poets, society dooms itself to inferior modes of articulation, those of the politician, the salesman, or the charlatan. In other words, it forfeits its own evolutionary potential. For what distinguishes us from the rest of the animal kingdom is precisely the gift of speech. Poetry is not a form of entertainment and in a certain sense not even a form of art, but it is our anthropological, genetic goal. Our evolutionary, linguistic beacon.
    • Joseph Brodsky, his opening remarks as United States Poet Laureate in October, 1991.
  • Poetry is the art of substantiating shadows, and of lending existence to nothing.
    • Edmund Burke, Memoir of the life and character of Edmund Burke by James Prior.
  • Some rhyme a neebor's name to lash;
    Some rhyme (vain thought!) for needfu' cash;
    Some rhyme to court the countra clash,
    An' raise a din;
    For me, an aim I never fash;
    I rhyme for fun.
  • For rhyme the rudder is of verses,
    With which, like ships, they steer their courses.
  • Some force whole regions, in despite
    O' geography, to change their site;
    Make former times shake hands with latter,
    And that which was before come after;
    But those that write in rhyme still make
    The one verse for the other's sake;
    For one for sense, and one for rhyme,
    I think's sufficient at one time.
  • I by no means rank poetry high in the scale of intelligence—this may look like affectation—but it is my real opinion—it is the lava of the imagination, whose eruption prevents an earthquake
    • Lord Byron, letter to Annabella Milbanke (29 November 1813).
  • A certain lady went to see the show,
    Her real name I know not, nor can guess,
    And so we'll call her Laura, if you please,
    Because it slips into my verse with ease.


  • Poetry is man's rebellion against being what he is.
  • Our poetry now is the realization that we possess nothing. Anything therefore is a delight (since we do not possess it) and thus need not fear its loss.
    • John Cage, Silence: Lectures and Writings, "Lecture on Nothing" (1959).
  • Poetry, therefore, we will call Musical Thought.
  • For there is no heroic poem in the world but is at bottom a biography, the life of a man; also, it may be said, there is no life of a man, faithfully recorded, but is a heroic poem of its sort, rhymed or unrhymed.
    • Thomas Carlyle, Sir Walter Scott, in London and Westminster Review (1838).
  • Poets often have a perception that gives their words the validity of science. So the English poet Francis Thompson said nearly a century ago, ‘Thou canst not stir a flower/Without troubling of a star.’ But the poet's insight has not become part of general knowledge.
    • Rachel Carson: Silent Spring & Other Writings on the Environment Speech at Scripps College (June 1962)
  • If there is poetry in my book about the sea, it is not because I deliberately put it there, but because no one could write truthfully about the sea and leave out the poetry.
    • Rachel Carson Acceptance speech of the National Book Award for Nonfiction (1952); also in Lost Woods: The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson (1999) edited by Linda Lear, p. 91
  • Poetry, unlike oratory, should not aim at clarity... but be dense with meaning, 'something to be chewed and digested'...
  • Un poète doit laisser des traces de son passage, non des preuves. Seules les traces font rêver.
    • A poet should leave traces of his passage, not proofs. Traces alone engender dreams.
      • René Char, as quoted in The French-American Review (1976) by Texas Christian University, p. 132.
  • I think that we're beginning to remember that the first poets didn't come out of a classroom, that poetry began when somebody walked off of a savanna or out of a cave and looked up at the sky with wonder and said, "Ahhh." That was the first poem.
  • I think that poetry, in general, after a certain point in a poet's life, has to do with the acknowledgment of mortality. And even the most joyful poems have to do with, "Yes, let's not forget that life is brief." Once I started dealing with grief in poetry, I discovered that I had found my way to poetry. I think that so many young poets are only writing about the joy of love and that sort of thing and don't understand that the great poetry, like Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle" and like Wordsworth's "Intimations" and "Tintern Abby," has all been a moment when the poet realizes that "this is my time to express what I have gathered in this brief life"... it was poetry and literature that led me to understand that to stifle someone else's emotional life is almost immoral, that you have to let people continue to live, and that grief is one of the great shackles. If you let grief hinder you, you can become trapped in it.
    • Judith Ortiz Cofer interview (2000) in A Poet's Truth: Conversations with Latino/Latina Poets by Bruce Allen Dick
  • No man was ever yet a great poet, without being at the same time a profound philosopher. For poetry is the blossom and the fragrance of all human knowledge, human thoughts, human passions, emotions, language
  • There is a pleasure in poetic pains
    Which only poets know.
  • 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.
  • 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).


  • For a man to become a poet, he must be in love... or miserable.
  • For me, poetry has been an exercise in freedom. Freedom is like a muscle-the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. Poetry can give you a sense of choice. It's free on every level. Language and memory have no price tags on them. You have limitless choices-in form, language, subject matter-that spill over into life.
  • To see the Summer Sky
    Is Poetry, though never in a Book it lie —
    True Poems flee —
  • Poetry must have something in it that is barbaric, vast and wild.
  • Doeg, though without knowing how or why,
    Made still a blundering kind of melody;
    Spurr'd boldly on, and dash'd through thick and thin,
    Through sense and nonsense, never out nor in;
    Free from all meaning whether good or bad,
    And in one word, heroically mad.
    • John Dryden, Absalom and Achitophel (1681), Part II, "Thick and thin", line 412.


  • 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, Tradition and the Individual Talent (1919).
  • It is a test (a positive test, I do not assert that it is always valid negatively), that genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.
  • Poetry comes nearer to vital truth than history.
  • 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.


  • I am no poet, but if you think for yourselves, as I proceed, the facts will form a poem in your minds.
    • Michael Faraday, in lecture notes of 1858, quoted in The Life and Letters of Faraday (1870) by Bence Jones, Vol. 2, p. 403.
  • The writing of a poem is like a child throwing stones into a mineshaft. You compose first, then you listen for the reverberation.
  • Everything one invents is true, you may be perfectly sure of that. Poetry is as precise as geometry.
  • Always fatuity, vulgarity, as soon as human passion is touched. [...] Just as some poetry is of the eye (form, colour) and some of the ear, so Keats is of the palate. Not only has he constant reference to its pleasures, but the general sensation after reading him is one of tasting. 'What's the harm?' Well, taste for some reason or the other can't carry one far into the world of beauty—that reason being perhaps that though you don't want comradership there you do want the possibility of comradership, and A cannot swallow B's mouthful by any possibility:....and this exclusiveness (to maunder on) also attaches to the physical side of sex though not the least to the spiritual.
    • E. M. Forster, Selected Letters: Letter 162, to Malcolm Darling, 1 December 1916.
  • A poem...begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness. It is a reaching-out toward expression; an effort to find fulfillment. A complete poem is one where an emotion finds the thought and the thought finds the words.
  • Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down.
    • Robert Frost, address at Milton Academy, Massachusetts (17 May 1935).
  • The person who spends his time criticizing the play around him will never write poetry. He will write criticism.
    • Robert Frost, statement at a poetry reading at Princeton University (26 October 1937), published in Collected Poems, Prose & Plays (1995).
  • 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.
  • I could define poetry this way: it is that which is lost out of both prose and verse in translation.
    • Robert Frost, Conversations on the Craft of Poetry (1959); often quoted as "Poetry is what gets lost in translation".
  • Poetry is the language in which man explores his own amazement.


  • The world's history is a divine poem, of which the history of every nation is a canto, and every man a word. Its strains have been pealing along down the centuries, and though there have been mingled the discords of warring cannon and dying men, yet to the Christian philosopher and historian — the humble listener — there has been a Divine melody running through the song which speaks of hope and halcyon days to come.
    • James A. Garfield, The Province of History (c. 1856), Reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 620.
  • Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary.
It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there. ~ William Carlos Williams
  • 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.
  • Poetry is the only place where you get an individual person telling his subjective truth, what he really thinks, as distinct from what he wants people to think he thinks.
    After all, the people making political speeches, they’re writing prose, if not poetry, and they are trying to get a little flowery language in there, but the language is shifty, and the language is manipulative, and people who are advertising, or even doing ordinary mass-media, are still inhibited and can’t say what they really think, but the poet can say what he really thinks, authentically, and that’s the advantage, and it’s longer-lasting than the immediate radio-broadcast or television-broadcast, because a poem is like a radio that can broadcast continually, for thousands of years.
  • Poetry is the culture of a people. We are poets even when we don’t write poems; just look at our life, our rhythms, our tenderness, our signifying, our sermons and our songs.
Though philosophers like to define poetry as irrational fancy, for us it is practical, humorous, reasonable way of being ourselves. ~ Robert Graves
  • If there's no money in poetry, neither is there poetry in money.
    • Robert Graves, speech at London School of Economics (6 December 1963).
  • A perfect poem is impossible. Once it had been written, the world would end.
    • Robert Graves, The Paris Review, "Writers at Work: 4th series," interview with Peter Buckman and William Fifield (1969).
  • Philosophy is antipoetic. Philosophize about mankind and you brush aside individual uniqueness, which a poet cannot do without self-damage. Unless, for a start, he has a strong personal rhythm to vary his metrics, he is nothing. Poets mistrust philosophy. They know that once the heads are counted, each owner of a head loses his personal identify and becomes a number in some government scheme: if not as a slave or serf, at least as a party to the device of majority voting, which smothers personal views.
    • Robert Graves, in "The Case for Xanthippe" in The Crane Bag (1969).
  • Abstract reason, formerly the servant of practical human reasons, has everywhere become its master, and denies poetry any excuse for existence.
    Though philosophers like to define poetry as irrational fancy, for us it is practical, humorous, reasonable way of being ourselves.
    Of never acquiescing in a fraud; of never accepting the secondary-rate in poetry, painting, music, love, friends. Of safeguarding our poetic institutions against the encroachments of mechanized, insensate, inhumane, abstract rationality.
    • Robert Graves, in "The Case for Xanthippe" in The Crane Bag (1969).
  • Thoughts that breathe, and words that burn.
    • Thomas Gray, The Progress of Poesy: A Pindaric Ode (1754), III, 3.


  • Poetry is the mother-tongue of the human race.
    • Johann Georg Hamann, Sämtliche Werken, ed. Josef Nadler (Vienna: Verlag Herder, 1949-1957), vol. II, p. 197.
  • If Galileo had said in verse that the world moved, the Inquisition might have let him alone.
    • Thomas Hardy, The Life and Work of Thomas Hardy ed. Michael Millgate (1984) p. 302.
  • Each of us is descended from poetry ancestors. It’s the same for any art, any occupation. There is a lineage of style, knowledge and culture passed from generation to generation, one artist to another. Ultimately all poetry is related in the family tree of poetry…
    • Joy Harjo “An Interview with Joy Harjo, U.S. Poet Laureate” in Poets.org (2019 Mar 31)
  • All that is worth remembering in life, is the poetry of it.
    • William Hazlitt, Lectures on the English Poets (1818) Lecture I, "On Poetry in General".
  • How we have been pulled from the land! And how poetry has worked hard to set us free, uncage us, keep us from split tongues that mimic the voices of our captors. It returns us to our land. Poetry is a string of words that parades without a permit. It is a lockbox of words to put an ear to as we try to crack the safe of language, listening for the right combination, the treasure inside. It is life resonating. It is sometimes called Prayer, Soothsaying, Complaint, Invocation, Proclamation, Testimony, Witness.
  • For dear to gods and men is sacred song.
    Self-taught I sing; by Heaven and Heaven alone,
    The genuine seeds of poesy are sown.
  • another wonderful thing that happens in Chinese language, not now maybe, but in classical times, was a poet is somebody who can write and sing and paint his poem. See how integrated that is? All those parts of your body are connected. You're not fragmented. Even now, the poets still do calligraphy.
  • no verses which are written by water-drinkers can please, or be long-lived
    • Horace, Book I, Epistle XIX "To Maecenas".
  • 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.
  • A poem is good if it contains a new analogy and startles the reader out of the habit of treating words as counters.


  • Sir, what is Poetry? Why, Sir, it is much easier to say what it is not. We all know what light is: but it is not easy to tell what it is.
  • Poetry is the art of uniting pleasure with truth, by calling imagination to the help of reason.
  • The essence of poetry is invention; such invention as, by producing something unexpected, surprises and delights.
    • Samuel Johnson, The Lives of the English Poets (1781) "Life of Waller".
  • Still may syllables jar with time,
    Still may reason war with rhyme,
    Resting never!
    • Ben Jonson, Underwoods XXIX, "A Fit of Rhyme Against Rhyme".
  • What’s important about poetry in the context of leadership is that most of the time, power has to do with dominance. But poetry is never about dominance. Poetry is powerful but it cannot even aspire to dominate anyone. It means making a connection. That’s what it means.


  • Poetry helps me to imagine freedom...Poetry can help lift the ceiling from our brains so that we can imagine liberation.
  • In a world dominated by the discourses of globalization a book of translations forces us to reflect and meditate, and it alerts us not only to differences but also connections and intersections among communities, religions and ethnicities. That there are similarities and there are difference. Both are in fact important. Context shapes the way one lives. The subject matter too could be different. But the meditative dimension, the concern with belonging, and with identity and rootedness are similar.
  • In Poetry I have a few axioms, and you will see how far I am from their centre. 1st. 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—2nd 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 (27th February 1818).
  • When power leads man towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man's concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses. For art establishes the basic human truth which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment.
  • For me, the prospect of expression through poetry transforms solitary silence and an empty page into sheer pleasure. I feel unafraid, knowing I can break all the rules, invent my own forms. No matter what persona I take on, my voice remains accessible and recognizable. There is no artifice, no pose, no sense that I have to transform myself into someone else. As a poet, I remain comfortably disrespectful. I experiment, take risks which sometimes work and sometimes don't.
    • Irena Klepfisz Preface to Dreams of an Insomniac: Jewish Feminist Essays, Speeches and Diatribes (1990)
  • what, in essence, is poetry. To me it seems that it is a magical transporter through time and space because it manages to contain the present, the past, even the future. Poetry is also the only literary medium that allows for the deformation of reality in service of artistic vision while at the same time endowing that vision with a marked purpose defined by all the attributes of reality.
  • I think that I shall never see
    A poem lovely as a tree.

    Poems are made by fools like me,
    But only God can make a tree.
  • 1968 was one of those rare times in America when poetry seemed to matter. Telephone service in New York City in 1968 offered a “dial-a-poem.” A government pilot program that year sent poets around the country to public high schools to give readings and discussions. The response was wildly enthusiastic. In Detroit, poet Donald Hall was trapped in a hallway at Amelia Earhart Junior High School by excited students shouting, “Say us a poem!” Obligingly he shouted one, but then the crowd had doubled with new arrivals and he had to read it again.


  • The imagination, which is the source of poetry, has in every country been the beginning as well as the ornament of civilization. It civilizes because it refines.
  • We deny that poetry is fiction; its merit and its power lie alike in its truth:
    • Letitia Elizabeth Landon, On the Ancient and Modern Influence of Poetry, The New Monthly Magazine (1832), Vol. 35, page 466
  • To connect the external object with the internal emotion is the sweetest privilege of poetry.
  • There's a reason for poetry... Poetry is a very nonlinear use of language, where the meaning is more than just the sum of the parts. And science requires that it be nothing more than the sum of the parts. And just the fact that there's stuff to explain out there that's more than the sum of the parts means that the traditional approach, just characterizing the parts and the relations, is not going to be adequate for capturing the essence of many systems that you would like to be able to do. That's not to say that there isn't a way to do it in a more scientific way than poetry, but I just like the feeling that culturally there's going to be more of something like poetry in the future of science.
  • Poetry should begin with emotion in the poet, and end with the same emotion in the reader. The poem is simply the instrument of transferance
  • Novels are about other people and poems are about yourself
  • The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives. It is within this light that we form those ideas by which we pursue our magic and make it realized. This is poetry as illumination, for it is through poetry that we give name to those ideas which are, until the poem, nameless and formless-about to be birthed, but already felt. That distillation of experience from which true poetry springs births thought as dream births concept, as feeling births idea, as knowledge births (precedes) understanding.
  • For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest external horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.
  • Poetry is not only dream and vision; it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundations for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before.
  • The white fathers told us, I think therefore I am; and the black mothers in each of us-the poet-whispers in our dreams, I feel therefore I can be free. Poetry coins the language to express and charter this revolutionary awareness and demand, the implementation of that freedom.
  • Our poems formulate the implications of ourselves, what we feel within and dare make real (or bring action into accordance with), our fears, our hopes, our most cherished terrors.
  • The form our creativity takes is often a class issue. Of all the art forms, poetry is the most economical. It is the one which is the most secret, which requires the least physical labor, the least material, and the one which can be done between shifts, in the hospital pantry, on the subway, and on scraps of surplus paper. Over the last few years, writing a novel on tight finances, I came to appreciate the enormous differences in the material demands between poetry and prose. As we reclaim our literature, poetry has been the major voice of poor, working class, and Colored women.


Only in Russia is poetry respected – it gets people killed.
~ Osip Mandelstam
  • Bless poetry books that cross oceans
    in battered envelopes,
    bearing small flames of words.
  • As for me, Poetry takes the place of love, because it is enamored of itself, and because this self-lust has a delightful dying fall in my soul.
  • poetry is an elusive thing that can neither be hidden nor locked away.
    • Nadezhda Mandelstam Hope Abandoned (1974) chapter 1, Translated from the Russian by Max Hayward
  • Only in Russia poetry is respected – it gets people killed. Is there anywhere else where poetry is so common a motive for murder?
  • Poetry is the plough that turns up time in such a way that the abyssal strata of time, its black earth, appear on the surface. There are epochs, however, when mankind, not satisfied with the present, yearning like the ploughman for the abyssal strata of time, thirsts for the virgin soil of time. Revolution in art inevitably leads to Classicism, not because David reaped the harvest of Robespierre, but because that is what the earth desires.
    • Osip Mandelstam THE WORD AND CULTURE translated into English in The complete critical prose (1997)
  • Many a bard's untimely death
    Lends unto his verses breath;
    Here's a song was never sung:
    Growing old is dying young.
  • The quality of poetry is not strained. It has not to abide our repeated questions. It tests and is not tested. Every true lover of poetry knows that when he cites great lines it is not the poetry but the hearer that is to be judged.
    • Alice Meynell, "Coventry Patmore", in The Second Person Singular and Other Essays (Oxford University Press, 1921), p. 100.
  • Rhime being no necessary Adjunct or true Ornament of Poem or good Verse, in longer Works especially, but the Invention of a barbarous Age, to set off wretched matter and lame Meeter…the troublesom and modern bondage of Rimeing
  • Most people ignore most poetry because most poetry ignore most people.
  • The bards were feared. They were respected, but more than that they were feared. If you were just some magician, if you'd pissed off some witch, then what's she gonna do, she's gonna put a curse on you, and what's gonna happen? Your hens are gonna lay funny, your milk's gonna go sour, maybe one of your kids is gonna get a hare-lip or something like that—no big deal. You piss off a bard, and forget about putting a curse on you, he might put a satire on you. And if he was a skillful bard, he puts a satire on you, it destroys you in the eyes of your community, it shows you up as ridiculous, lame, pathetic, worthless, in the eyes of your community, in the eyes of your family, in the eyes of your children, in the eyes of yourself, and if it's a particularly good bard, and he's written a particularly good satire, then three hundred years after you're dead, people are still gonna be laughing, at what a twat you were.
    • Alan Moore in "The Craft" - interview with Daniel Whiston, Engine Comics (January 2005).


  • Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by reason.
    • Novalis, as quoted in Quote, Unquote‎ (1989) by Jonathan Williams, p. 136.


  • Poems, like dreams, have a visible subject and an invisible one. The invisible one is the one you can't choose, the one that writes itself. Not a message that comes at the end of the poem, more like a pathological condition that deforms every word – a resonance, a manner of speaking, a nervous tic, a pressure. And this invisible subject only shows up when you're speaking the language that you speak when no one is there to correct or applaud you. Remembering that language is the whole skill of writing well.
    • Alice Oswald, Get Writing (2004), as quoted in Modern Women Poets (2005) by Deryn Rees-Jones, p. 392


  • It is not difficult to understand the resistance to the idea of poetry as a performing art. For years our concept of poetry and its presentation has been dominated by male academic ivory towerites. We have been conditioned to find poetry isolated and secluded from the masses of people, a pursuit only to be understood and especially enjoyed by those who possess trained minds and favored breeding. It has long been touted as an art form to be admired for its stylistic machinations with severe limitations on its concepts and subject matter...In the 1960s, things began to change. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets and began voicing other concerns. Concerns that touched our lives: a war in a far-away pace with an unknown people; the separateness of America's ethnic minorities and inequality of her perceptions of them; the role of women and the rape of our minds and bodies. The poets and poetry also changed. The concerns voiced by people in the streets appeared on pages clutched by angry hands. The audiences and the forums also began changing. Women poets started leaving the university reading rooms and coffeehouses and began going to women's centers. The move toward consciousness had created a different need and a new way to approach poetry and its presentation. Women's centers, which in many instances were represented by a single night allocated to women in the backroom of a coffeehouse or YWCA, started sponsoring poetry reading. Women began applying the lessons learned in consciousness-raising work and to their approach to other writers. The competitiveness and the one-upmanship of the male poetry scene was replaced by a joyful sharing of ideas and a commitment to sisterhood.
    • Pat Parker “Poetry at Women's Music Festivals: Oil and Water" (1986) In The Complete Works of Pat Parker (2016)
  • Remember, writing poetry is like making love: one will never know whether one's own pleasure is shared.
  • The only thing worse than poetry? Abstract poetry, which exists solely to make students feel stupid and professors feel smug.
  • Poetry changes with every generation, but it does not improve or progress. It just changes its styles, trappings and some of its obsessions, but we can still enjoy Sappho and Homer; they are today's news as much as when they were written or recited.
    • Marge Piercy "WHY SPECULATE ON THE FUTURE?" in My Life, My Body (2015)
  • Poems told me there were other people who felt the way I felt. That was validation for the person I was. Poems can mean survival.
  • I would define, in brief, the Poetry of words as The Rhythmical Creation of Beauty.
    • Edgar Allan Poe, The Poetic Principle (1850).
      • Often quoted as "Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words".
  • Poetic Justice, with her lifted scale,
    Where, in nice balance, truth with gold she weighs,
    And solid pudding against empty praise.
  • What woful stuff this madrigal would be,
    In some starv'd hackney sonneteer or me!
    But let a lord once own the happy lines,
    How the wit brightens! how the style refines.


  • Poetry is the revelation of a feeling that the poet believes to be interior and personal but which the reader recognizes as his own.


  • Who needs poetry? All of us do. Poetry has always been the voice of the inner self, the carrier of revelations, dreams, and visions that often defy expression in ordinary prose.
    • Jane Roberts, Dialogues of the Soul and Mortal Self in Time, p. v.
    • the best explanation, as far as I can see, for women's preference for poetry is practical. A man, once he had finished his workday, had the rest of the time to himself. But a woman's workday never finished. A poem has the great advantage over longer works in that it can be conceived from beginning to end while scrubbing floors or ironing laundry, and it can be jotted down in the blink of an eye.
    • Chava Rosenfarb "Feminism and Yiddish Literature: A Personal Approach" (1992) in "Confessions of a Yiddish Writer and Other Essays" edited and translated from the Yiddish by Goldie Morgentaler (2019)
  • Lord but I dislike poetry. How can anyone remember words that aren’t put to music?
  • Science is for those who learn; poetry, for those who know.
    • Joseph Roux, Meditations of a Parish Priest pt. 1, LXXI.
  • There is one kind of knowledge-infinitely precious, time-resistant more than monuments, here to be passed between the generations in any way it may be: never to be used. And that is poetry.
  • Breathe-in experience, breathe-out poetry


  • Despite all the lying hype about “diversity” and “openness” and “inclusion,” American poetry was becoming a closed corporation for a rather narrow bandwidth of sociopolitical opinion.
  • He who draws noble delights from sentiments of poetry is a true poet, though he has never written a line in all his life.
  • Poetry is the journal of the sea animal living on land, wanting to fly 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. … Poetry is the opening and closing of a door, leaving those who look through to guess about what is seen during the moment.
  • A poem works or fails to work; no amount of argufying can convert an experienced reader.
    • Michael Schmidt, from 'Getting poetry published', in, Writer's and Artist's Yearbook (2004).
  • And, as imagination bodies forth
    The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
    Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
    A local habitation and a name.
  • I had rather be a kitten, and cry mew,
    Than one of these same metre ballet-mongers;
    I had rather hear a brazen canstick turn'd,
    Or a dry wheel grate on the axletree;
    And that would set my teeth nothing on edge,
    Nothing so much as mincing poetry:
    'Tis like the forced gait of a shuffling nag.
  • Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
    Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme.
  • …poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted.
  • Poetry is the record of the best and happiest moments of the happiest and best minds.
  • if you read the poems of someone somewhere you know a lot more about that country than you know if you just study its crops or weather conditions.
  • all poems belong to anyone who loves them.
  • … ζωγραφίαν ποίησιν σιωπῶσαν προσαγορεύει [sc. ὁ Σιμωνίδης], τὴν δὲ ποίησιν ζωγραφίαν λαλοῦσαν.
Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting with the gift of speech.
Painting is silent poetry, poetry is eloquent painting.
See also: Ut pictura poesis
  • I was promised on a time
    To have reason for my rhime;
    From that time until this season
    I received nor rhime nor reason.


  • The idea of poetry in our Navajo world, speaking — Ya’ jił’tí’i’gí’ — Diníbizaad — is related to the whole — one’s whole life, the whole community. It’s not separated the way poetry is in Western society.
  • You can tear a poem apart to see what makes it technically tick...You're back with the mystery of having been moved by words. The best craftsmanship always leaves holes and gaps in the works of the poem so that something that is not in the poem can creep, crawl, flash or thunder in.
  • A good poem helps to change the shape and significance of the universe, helps to extend everyone's knowledge of himself and the world around him.
    • Dylan Thomas, Quite Early One Morning (New York: New Directions, 1954) "On Poetry", pp. 192-93.
  • 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.
  • Good poetry seems so simple and natural a thing that when we meet it we wonder that all men are not always poets. Poetry is nothing but healthy speech.
  • The works of the great poets have never yet been read by mankind, for only great poets can read them. They have only been read as the multitude read the stars, at most astrologically, not astronomically. Most men have learned to read to serve a paltry convenience, as they have learned to cipher in order to keep accounts and not be cheated in trade; but of reading as a noble intellectual exercise they know little or nothing; yet this only is reading, in a high sense, not that which lulls us as a luxury and suffers the nobler faculties to sleep the while, but what we have to stand on tip-toe to read and devote our most alert and wakeful hours to.


Poetry (like a grand personality) is a growth of many generations – many rare combinations.
To have great poets, there must be great audiences too.
~ Walt Whitman
  • 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.
  • All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling.
  •     It is difficult
    to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there.
  • Schiller writes in a letter [to Goethe, 17 December 1795] of a ‘poetic mood’. I think I know what he means, I think I am familiar with it myself. It is the mood of receptivity to nature and one in which one’s thoughts seem as vivid as nature itself.
  • I have said that poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.


  • We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry.
  • There is in Poesy a decent pride,
    Which well becomes her when she speaks to Prose,
    Her younger sister.


  • Poetry is a constructed conversation on the frontier of dreaming.
    • Matthew Zapruder, Why Poetry (2017)

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia of Practical Quotations

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 602-05.
  • The fatal facility of the octosyllabic verse.
  • In the hexameter rises the fountain's silvery column:
    In the pentameter aye falling in melody back.
  • Prose—words in their best order;—poetry—the best words in their best order.
  • Made poetry a mere mechanic art.
  • Feel you the barren flattery of a rhyme?
    Can poets soothe you, when you pine for bread,
    By winding myrtle round your ruin'd shed?
  • Why then we should drop into poetry.
  • When the brain gets as dry as an empty nut,
    When the reason stands on its squarest toes,
    When the mind (like a beard) has a "formal cut,"—
    There is a place and enough for the pains of prose;
    But whenever the May-blood stirs and glows,
    And the young year draws to the "golden prime,"
    And Sir Romeo sticks in his ear a rose,—
    Then hey! for the ripple of laughing rhyme!
  • 'Twas he that ranged the words at random flung,
    Pierced the fair pearls and them together strung.
    • Eastwick—Anvari Suhaili. Rendering of Bidpai.
  • For it is not metres, but a metre-making argument that makes a poem.
  • It does not need that a poem should be long. Every word was once a poem.
  • Oh love will make a dog howl in rhyme.
  • What is a Sonnet? 'Tis the pearly shell
    That murmurs of the far-off, murmuring sea;
    A precious jewel carved most curiously;
    It is a little picture painted well.
    What is a Sonnet? 'Tis the tear that fell
    From a great poet's hidden ecstasy;
    A two-edged sword, a star, a song—ah me!
    Sometimes a heavy tolling funeral bell.
  • To write a verse or two, is all the praise
    That I can raise.
  • A verse may finde him who a sermon flies,
    And turn delight into a sacrifice.
  • For dear to gods and men is sacred song.
    Self-taught I sing; by Heaven and Heaven alone,
    The genuine seeds of poesy are sown.
    • Homer, The Odyssey, Book XXII, line 382, Pope's translation.
  • Versibus exponi tragicis res comica non vult.
    • A comic matter cannot be expressed in tragic verse.
    • Horace, Ars Poetica (18 BC), 89.
  • Non satis est pulchra esse poemata, dulcia sunto.
    • It is not enough that poetry is agreeable, it should also be interesting.
    • Horace, Ars Poetica (18 BC), 99.
  • Versus inopes rerum, nugæque canoræ.
    • Verses devoid of substance, melodious trifles.
    • Horace, Ars Poetica (18 BC), 322.
  • Ubi plura nitent in carmine, non ego paucis
    Offendar maculis, quas aut incuria fudit,
    Aut humana parum cavit natura.
    • Where there are many beauties in a poem I shall not cavil at a few faults proceeding either from negligence or from the imperfection of our nature.
    • Horace, Ars Poetica (18 BC), 351.
  • Nonumque prematur in annum.
    • Let your poem be kept nine years.
    • Horace, Ars Poetica (18 BC), 388.
  • Wheresoe'er I turn my view,
    All is strange, yet nothing new:
    Endless labor all along,
    Endless labor to be wrong:
    Phrase that Time has flung away;
    Uncouth words in disarray,
    Trick'd in antique ruff and bonnet,
    Ode, and elegy, and sonnet.
    • Samuel Johnson, Parody of the style of Thomas Warton. See Croker's note to Boswell's Life of Johnson (18 September 1777), also in Mrs. Piozzi's Anecdotes.
  • The essence of poetry is invention; such invention as, by producing something unexpected, surprises and delights.
  • Still may syllables jar with time,
    Still may reason war with rhyme,
    * Resting never!
    • Ben Jonson, Underwoods, Fit of Rhyme Against Rhyme.
  • These are the gloomy comparisons of a disturbed imagination; the melancholy madness of poetry, without the inspiration.
    • Junius, Letter No, VII. To Sir W. Draper.
  • Facit indignatio versum.
    • Indignation leads to the making of poetry. Quoted "Facit indignatio versus"—i.e., verses.
    • Juvenal, Satires (early 2nd century), I. 79.
  • The poetry of earth is never dead;
    * * * * *
    The poetry of earth is ceasing never.
  • A drainless shower
    Of light is poesy: 'tis the supreme of power;
    'Tis might half slumbering on its own right arm.
  • There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays,
  • The time for Pen and Sword was when
    "My ladye fayre," for pity,
    Could tend her wounded knight, and then
    Grow tender at his ditty.
    Some ladies now make pretty songs,
    And some make pretty nurses:
    Some men are good for righting wrongs,
    And some for writing verses.
  • It ["The Ancient Mariner"] is marvellous in its mastery over that delightfully fortuitous inconsequence that is the adamantine logic of dreamland.
  • For, of all compositions, he thought that the sonnet
    Best repaid all the toil you expended upon it.
  • Never did Poesy appear
    So full of heaven to me, as when
    I saw how it would pierce through pride and fear
    To the lives of coarsest men.
  • These pearls of thought in Persian gulfs were bred,
    Each softly lucent as a rounded moon;
    The diver Omar plucked them from their bed,
    FitzGerald strung them on an English thread.
  • Musæo contigens cuncta lepore.
    • Gently touching with the charm of poetry.
    • Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, IV. 9.
  • The merit of poetry, in its wildest forms, still consists in its truth—truth conveyed to the understanding, not directly by the words, but circuitously by means of imaginative associations, which serve as its conductors.
  • Lap me in soft Lydian airs,
    Married to immortal verse,
    Such as the meeting soul may pierce,
    In notes, with many a winding bout
    Of linkèd sweetness long drawn out.
  • Yea, marry, now it is somewhat, for now it is rhyme; before it was neither rhyme nor reason.
    • Sir Thomas More. Advising an author to put his Manuscript into rhyme. "Rhyme nor reason." Said by Peele—Edward I. In As You Like It, Act III, scene 2. Comedy of Errors, Act II, scene 2. Merry Wives of Windsor, Act V, scene 5. Farce du Vendeur des Lieures. (16th Cen.) L'avocat Patelin (Quoted by Tyndale, 1530.) The Mouse Trap. (1606). See Beloe Anecdotes of Literature, II. 127. Also in Manuscript in Cambridge University Library, England. 2. 5. Folio 9b. (Before 1500).
  • An erit, qui velle recuset
    Os populi meruisse? et cedro digna locutus
    Linquere, nec scombros metuentia carmina nec thus.
    • Lives there the man with soul so dead as to disown the wish to merit the people's applause, and having uttered words worthy to be kept in cedar oil to latest times, to leave behind him rhymes that dread neither herrings nor frankincense.
    • Persius, Satires, I. 41.
  • Verba togæ sequeris, junctura callidus acri,
    Ore teres modico, pallentes radere mores
    Doctus, et ingenuo culpam defigere ludo.
    • Confined to common life thy numbers flow,
      And neither soar too high nor sink too low;
      There strength and ease in graceful union meet,
      Though polished, subtle, and though poignant, sweet;
      Yet powerful to abash the front of crime
      And crimson error's cheek with sportive rhyme.
    • Persius, Satires, V. 14. Gifford's translation.
  • The varying verse, the full resounding line,
    The long majestic march, and energy divine.
  • Curst be the verse, how well soe'er it flow,
    That tends to make one worthy man my foe,
    Give virtue scandal, innocence a fear,
    Or from the soft-eyed virgin steal a tear!
  • I consider poetry very subordinate to moral and political science.
  • A poem round and perfect as a star.
  • I was promised on a time,
    To have reason for my rhyme;
    From that time unto this season,
    I received nor rhyme nor reason.
    • Edmund Spenser, Lines on His Promised Pension. See Fuller's Worthies, by Nuttall, Volume II, p. 379.
  • Jewels five-words-long,
    That on the stretch'd forefinger of all Time
    Sparkle for ever.
  • Tale tuum carmen nobis, divine poeta,
    Quale sopor fessis in gramine.
    • Thy verses are as pleasing to me, O divine poet, as sleep is to the wearied on the soft turf.
    • Virgil, Eclogæ, V. 45.
  • One merit of poetry few persons will deny: it says more and in fewer words than prose.
    • Voltaire, Dictionnaire philosophique portatif ("A Philosophical Dictionary") (1764), Poets.
  • Old-fashioned poetry, but choicely good.
    • Izaak Walton, The Compleat Angler (1653-1655), Part I, Chapter IV.
  • And so no force, however great,
    Can strain a cord, however fine,
    Into a horizontal line
    That shall be absolutely straight.
  • Give lettered pomp to teeth of Time,
    So "Bonnie Doon" but tarry:
    Blot out the epic's stately rhyme,
    But spare his Highland Mary!
  • The vision and the faculty divine;
    Yet wanting the accomplishment of verse.

See also

Wikisource has original works on the topic:
  • Encyclopedic article on Poetry on Wikipedia