1) Pobiz and poetry are mutually exclusive.
2) You should make a life and then be a poet too.
3) Though some may dress unusually, poets are not exotic creatures. Black is always in fashion.
4) If you’re prone to envy, poetry is not going to be a satisfying endeavor for you. Bitterness is sure to set in.
5) Poets may make little money, yet one might say they live in a state of privileged impoverishment.
6) Poets who need writing prompts and exercises to produce poems should give up the art.
7) Poetry is a sweet slow poison.
Tomorrow will be beautiful,
For tomorrow comes out of the lake.
—Emanuel Carnevali, Furnished Rooms,
edited by Dennis Barone, Bordighera Press 2006
(I love the way this small poem works, starting with that bald-faced expression of hope then turning to 'the lake' as the improbable agent of satisfaction.)
Flowers are made to seduce the senses: fragrance, form, colour.
If you can not be seduced by beauty, you can not learn the wisdom of ugliness.—H.D., “Notes on Thought and Vision, Scilly Islands, July 1919,” Notes On Thought And Vision & The Wise Sappho (City Lights 1982) with an introduction by Albert Gelphi
In the case of poetry, literature, it’s simpler to say—theologians know a thing or two about this—what the spirit isn’t. It’s not psychoanalytic any more than it’s behavioral, sociological, or political. It is holistic, and in it are reflected, as in the astronaut’s helmet, the earth, the stars, and a human face.
These are difficult and dangerous considerations.
—Adam Zagajewski, “Dangerous Considerations: A Notebook,” translated by Clare Cavenaugh, Poetry, Oct. 2007
if we once start writing poetry, no one can guarantee where we shall come out — except to say that many ends, objects, and institutions are doomed. Every poet puts some portion of an apparently stable world in peril, and no one can wholly predict what will emerge in its place.
—Marianne Moore, Predilections (Viking Press, 1955)
Tonight, I got to hear my rejecter, David Wojahn, read his poems. Speaking to him after his reading, I recounted my experience with his overly generous rejection note. He smiled and said it must have been when he was editing Crazyhorse. I hadn’t even remembered the name of the journal. It wasn’t important. Only the rejection note was.
—Harold Bloom, The Art of Reading Poetry (HarperCollins, 2004)
—Gaston Bachelard, L’Eau et le rêves
(translated by Jean-Claude Margolin, in Bachelard’s Philosophy and Poetics, 1989, Center for Advanced Research in Phenomenology & University Press of America)
—Octavio Paz, “Luis Cernuda: The Edifying Word,” On Poets and Others, translated by Michael Schmidt, Seaver Books 1986
to its natural conclusion—dead end
at the coast, the pier at Gulfport where
riggings of shrimp boats are loose stitches
in a sky threatening rain.
from “Theories of Space and Time,”
Native Ground (Houghton Mifflin, 2006)
—Maurice Blanchot, “Poetics,” Faux Pas, translated by Charlotte Mandell, Stanford Univ. Press, 2001
—Frank Sibley, “Originality and Value”
A key quote in the talk was this one from Opus Posthumous:
"The pressure of the contemporaneous from the time of the beginning of the World War to the present time has been constant and extreme. No one can have lived apart in a happy oblivion."
Stevens goes on to state:
"In poetry, to that extent, the subject is not the contemporaneous, because that is only the nominal subject, but the poetry of the contemporaneous. Resistance to the pressure of ominous and destructive circumstance consists of its conversion, so far as possible, into a different, an explicable, an amenable circumstance."
—John Dewey, "The Varied Substance Of The Arts," Art As Experience(Perigee/Penguin Putnam Books, 1980)
The opposition between making and learning—and, therefore, the mutual exclusion of poetry and philosophy—is a false one. As for making, no matter how creative the poet, the poem created is conditioned by the poet’s language and experience: the creation is not ex nihilo. It may be less apparent that the philosopher’s learning cannot be a matter of wholly passive receptivity…if it were, the receptivity would not go beyond mute apprehension. As soon as a philosopher begins to speak or to teach, the philosopher begins to make or produce: the philosopher becomes a poet. [p. 8]
I do not mean to suggest that no distinction between philosophy and poetry may or should be drawn; I do not mean to suggest that any distinction that would make a writer either a philosopher or a poet is misleading. The best writers, in my judgment—the most interesting, the most illuminating, the most informative, the most aesthetically pleasing—are philosophical poets or poetic philosophers. Nietzsche is among them. [p. 9]
—Alan White, Within Nietzsche’s Labryrinth (Routledge, 1990)
I don’t like a dream which just drifts (I was going to say which just dreams). I try to make a substantial dream of it, a kind of ship’s figurehead which after crossing inner space and time confronts outside space and time—and for it the outside is the blank page
—Jules Supervielle, “Reflections on the Art of Poetry, 1951,” Selected Poems, edited by George Bogen
—Jean Wahl, A Short History Of Existentialism (Philosophical Library, 1940)
—E. M. Cioran, A Short History of Decay, translated by Richard Howard (Arcade Publishing, 1998)
—Walt Whitman, “An American Primer,” The Neglected Walt Whitman, edited by Sam Abrams, Four Walls Eight Windows, 1993
For when the traveler returns from the mountain-slopes into the valley,
he brings, not a handful of earth, unsayable to others, but instead
some word he has gained, some pure word, the yellow and blue
gentian. Perhaps we are only here in order to say: house,
bridge, fountain, gate, pitcher, fruit-tree, window—
at most: column, tower…But to say them, you must understand,
oh to say them more intensely than the Things themselves
ever dreamed of existing.
—Rainer Maria Rilke, from “The Ninth Elegy,” Ahead of All Parting, Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Stephen Mitchell, Modern Library, 1995
Poetry is an opening up to the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.
reason or method to perpetrate bad poems. (It’s no coincidence that ‘flarfing’ arose at the same time the ‘paradelle', Billy Collins’ pet form, had its day.) Has anything of lasting interest ever been created by an artist absent a compelling subject or profound emotion? Silence should be a satisfying alternative to the poet who hasn’t any reason to write.
—Kenneth Rexroth, introduction to D.H. Lawrence: Selected Poems
—Basil Bunting, The Codex
In poetry, too, all that is whole might only be half-done, and yet all half-done might actually be a whole.
(Literary Aphorisms, 1797-1800)
—Friedrich Schlegel, Dialogue on Poetry & Literary Aphorisms, Behler & Struc, trans., Penn. State U. Press, 1968
The mark left is poetry, causes changes in
(entry March 5th, 1963)
Aim for a whole new way of using language. There should be
no artificial abbreviations (of sentences, etc.) in poetry.
Closer to the mind it comes out how? Or the mind closer
to the poem, comes out with its own good poetry.
(entry March 15th, 1963)
I don’t want to force my mind to be clever or force
it to poetry.
What are those other poets talking about.
Is language for speaking or writing,
(entry August 11th, 1963)
--Joanne Kyger, Strange Big Moon, The Japan and India Journals: 1960-1964,
North Atlantic Book, 2000
--Clive James, “Stefan Zweig,” Cultural Amnesia
(I first encountered Zweig’s incredibly lucid prose in his book Erasmus of Rotterdam…I can only imagine how well he reads in German.)
—Scott Donaldson, Edwin Arlington Robinson: A Poet's Life (Columbia University Press. © 2007)
—Hart Crane,The Letters of Hart Crane, November 26, 1921
And because poetry is born in this root life where the powers of the soul are active in common, poetry implies an essential requirement of totality or integrity. Poetry is the fruit neither of the intellect alone, nor of the imagination alone. Nay more, it proceeds from the totality of man, sense, imagination, intellect, love, desire, instinct, blood and spirit together. And the first obligation imposed on the poet is to consent to be brought back to the hidden place, near the center of the soul, where the totality exists in the state of a creative source.
—Jacques Maritain, Creative Intuition In Art & Poetry (Pantheon Books, 1953)
—W.R. Johnson, The Idea of the Lyric, U. of California Press, 1982 (p. 48)
—Giacomo Leopardi, Zibaldone dei pensieri
—Fernando Pessoa, Always Astonished (City Lights Books, 1988), translated by Edwin Honig
inscribed on the flyleaf, in Whitman's hand, is this quote:
"We critique a palace or a cathedral, but what is the good of critiquing a
—E. B. White, “Unzip the Veil,” ONE MAN’S MEAT, p146
—Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality (1929)
The safest general characterization of the European poetical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Homer.
To define the verb to live would be a whole philosophy. And nothing at all.
We can amuse ourselves defining poetry, but we do not define sensations.
Living in Poetry: Interviews with Guillevic,translated from the French by Maureen Smith(The Dedalus Press, 1999) p. 11
—Antonin Artaud, preface to The Theatre and its Double, translated by Mary Caroline Richards
I write poems to orient myself in reality. I view them as trigonometric points or buoys that mark a course in an unknown area. Only through writing do things take on reality for me. Reality is my goal, not my presupposition. First, I must establish it.
Let us use the word “definition” for these trigonometric signs. Such definitions are not only useful for the writer but it is absolutely necessary that he set them up. In each good line of poetry I hear the cane of the blindman striking: I am on secure ground now.
—Gunter Eich, "Some Remarks on 'Literature and Reality',”
Valuable Nail: Selected Poems of Gunter Eich,
Oberlin College Press, 1981, translated by Stuart Freibert