poet on a mountaintop

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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