Poetry Quotes: Poets Talk About Poetry

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Poetry quotes. Who knew poets had so much to say about poetry. Here are some of the nations leading poets telling the secrets of their craft.

Jane Hirschfield: ” I don’t think poetry is based just on poetry; it is based on a thoroughly lived life. And so I couldn’t just decide I was going to write no matter what; I first had to find out what it means to live.”

Joy Harjo: “I have always begun with dancing, heard singing, and it always goes back to rhythm. The poems have always started that way. The rhythm, or the beat, even drives the image…My contention is that music, poetry, and dance came into the world together. Civilization in the form of the printing press forced them apart.”

Carolyn Forché: “No one is a great poet because she is a miserable drunk. No one is a great poet because he has had a nervous breakdown. Suffering, however, can be experienced as a curse or a blessing; the luckiest is the one who can experience it as a blessing.”

Lucinda Williams: “Above all, the listener should be able to understand the poem or the song, not be forced to unravel a complicated, self-indulgent puzzle. Offer your art up to the whole world, not just an elite few.”

James Wright: “Sometimes there is a force of life like the spring which mysteriously takes shape without your even having asked it to take shape, and this is frightening, it is terribly frightening. … Being a poet sometimes puts you at the mercy of life, and life is not always merciful.”

Rita Dove: “I’ve always been obsessed by the voices that are not normally heard. I think it comes from the women I knew as a child, the women in the kitchen who told the best stories. They knew how the world worked, about human nature, and they were wise, are wise.”

Dana Gioia: “I believe that poetry, like no other art, articulates an essential part of the human consciousness.”

Sharon Olds: “Poets are like steam valves, where the ordinary feelings of ordinary people can escape and be shown.”

Muriel Rukeyser: “If there were no poetry on any day in the world, poetry would be invented that day. For there would be an intolerable hunger.”

May Sarton: “You choose to be a novelist, but you’re chosen to be a poet. This is a gift and it’s a tremendous responsibility. You have to be willing to give something terribly intimate and secret of yourself to the world and not care, because you have to believe that what you have to say is important enough.”

Naomi Shihab Nye: “To me the world of poetry is a house with thousands of glittering windows. Our words and images, land to land, era to era, shed light on one another. Our words dissolve the shadows we imagine fall between.”

Robert Bly: “Poetry keeps longing alive.”


When not writing novels, I also write poetry and a great many books by poets grace my bookshelves. Good poetry helps keep me sane. It gives me hope for the creative soul of the world. Not to mention I have a few poets as readers of this blog–this post is especially for you.

Did you enjoy these poetry quotes? Do you have a favorite quote? A favorite poet?



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  1. I found this provocative: “Civilization in the form of the printing press forced them [music, poetry and dance] apart.” As we stopped being a live-person-to-live-person-based culture, she says these were forced apart. So we have the amazing benefits of “stored” art in the form of writing (written music, choreography, words), yet perhaps it is a curse in disguise? Thought provoking!

  2. Hi Anne,
    That line is provocative, indeed. I think no matter what form our art takes in this broken world, to be a conscious human being who lives life full out without blinders on is both a blessing and a curse. That said, may we all have more blessings!

    Thanks for your “thought provoking” comment.

  3. Hi Susan:
    I dabble in poetry and find it takes me to a different place. A poet from out near Hayesville, Nancy Simpson, writes beautiful poetry. I love reading her work before I begin to concentrate on my day’s work. Sometimes it’s Billy Collins who brightens my day. For years I’ve turned to Rod McKuen…Come to Me in Silence. On the flap of this book it reads…”come in slowly, unafraid, and share with me a certain kind of silence.” I accept his invitation!
    Thanks for the blog.

  4. Hi Susan,
    My favorite quotes and ones that I identify with most: Joy Harjo, Dana Gioia, and Robert Bly….glad poetry is part of you too!!!

  5. Thanks to Nancy and Diana for their comments. It’s always nice to know there are kindred spirits out there.

  6. Hi Susan,
    I love to write poetry also and have been writing it since childhood. My list of “favourite” quotes grows everyday, but I have no “favourite” poet, or writer or musician or anything. I am quite steadily moving away from having a favourite anything. To me, no one is “better” than everyone else, or anyone else for that matter. I rather like getting samples of all as I go along, and some things touch me more deeply than do others.This doesn’t mean it’s “better” however, because the same thing might not impress another person at all.
    Along with organised religion, jealousy, greed and bigotry, I believe that favouritism and competitions need to be done away with also. Instead of competitions, I think we should have regular “sharing and networking events.” If there are entry fees or collections taken, then it should be shared by all who participate. Everyone has a voice, and every voice is important. Tributaries leading to the oceans and seas are as countless as the stars.
    Trélys (Ha ha ha ….Been Meditating a Lot Lately ^ – ^ )

  7. May Sarton really nails it: You choose to be a novelist, but you’re chosen to be a poet. This is a gift and it’s a tremendous responsibility. Thanks for a great post, Susan!

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