Latest quote added: March 2022
"I think a poet's job is to pay attention"
Angela France, Ledbury poetry festival, 2021.
"the poet can . . . go deep . . . into the reality of things . . . [but]
the aid of the reason, far from strengthening, paralyses that impulse of the emotions
that alone can carry them into the world's heart"
Marcel Proust, essay - Against obscurity.
"No sensible author, in the midst of something that he is trying to write, can stop to consider whether it is going to be
romantic or the opposite. At the moment when one writes, one is what one is, and the damage of a lifetime,
and of having been born into an unsettled society, cannot be repaired at the moment of composition."
T.S. Eliot, After Strange Gods, 1933
"when all is said and done it is only the inexpressible, only what one thought one would
not succeed in putting into a book, which survives. . . . When we have not experienced this inexpressible something,
we flatter ourselves that our own work is the equal of that of those who have experienced it,
for the words after all are the same. Only it is not in the words, it is not expressed,
it is mixed in between the words, like the mist on a morning in Chantilly."
Marcel Proust, essay on Gerard de Nerval.
"We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion.
And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life.
But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for".
Tom Schulman, Dead Poets Society.
"The art of the future shall be to feed the interior life of individuals and will not be dominated
by any theory: political, philosophical or religious".
Cecil Collins, catalogue for exhibition at the Bloomsbury Gallery, 1935. Quoted in "The Magic Mirror, Thoughts and reflections on Cecil Collins", John Stewart Allitt, Temenos Academy, 2010.
"[on the writing of a poem] - If I knew where it would end, why start . . . What is interesting is the watersheds
in the thought that can happen over a line break".
Philip Gross, reading at the Vaughan Association, 2014
"The only reality is a shared reality, situated within a common ground".
Eva Hoffman, Lost in Translation, Vintage, 1998, p.195
"No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist".
Oscar Wilde, Intentions, Methuen, 1891, The Decay of Lying, an Observation, p.44
"Even though I cannot foresee which path you will take with your law doctorate, I find the great contrast between
your two occupations positive; the more diverse the life of the mind, the better the chances are that your inspiration will
be protected, the inspiration which cannot be predicted, that which is motivated from within".
Reiner Maria Rilke, letter to Elisabeth Ephrussi, quoted in The Hare with Amber Eyes, Edmund De Waal,Vintage Books, 2011, p.216
"Every poem is an act of discovery . . . for me it is an altered state of being,
when I can reach the deeper strands of my inner being ."
Jane Hirschfield, at Ledbury Poetry Festival, June 2012
"...that difference and the sense of not quite belonging that causes so many
to become poets"
William Ayot, at Poetry on the Border, October 2012
"The literary is not dependent on the philosophical,
and the aesthetic is irreducible to ideology or metaphysics. Aesthetic criticism returns us
to the autonomy of imaginative literature and the sovereignty of the solitary soul,
the reader not as a person in society but as the deep self, our ultimate inwardness."
Harold Bloom, The Western Canon, Macmillan/Papermac, 1995, Preface & Prelude, p.10
"The best culture is not divorced from life,
but our most profound way to make sense of it."
Harry Eyres The slow lane, Financial Times, December 29/30 2012
"I believe that poetry is about expanding our consciousness
of a world of which we only have occasional glimpses."
Peter Bennet PBS Bulletin 206 2005, p. 8
"The poem that can't be improved by a sympathetic reader's
suggestion is as rare as a green-spotted unicorn."
John Lucas, interview with William Oxley, Acumen 70, 2010, p. 15
"Man's perceptions are not bounded by organs of
perception; he perceives more than sense can discover. "
William Blake, There is no natural religion
"Poetry demands, even commands, concentration; it isolates a man willy-nilly,
forcing its company on him unbidden. In the wide world (not to say in the great world)
it is as awkward as a devoted mistress."
Goethe, letter to Schiller, 1797, The Practical Wisdom of Goethe, trans Stanwell and Purtscher-Wydenbruck. Allen and Unwin 1933, p. 188
"[The word] 'Poet' must be used cautiously; it names an
aspiration, not an occupation."
Louise Glück, Proofs and Theories, Ecco Press, 1999, p. 21
"The poets are they who see that spiritual is greater than any
material force, that thoughts rule the world."
Emerson, Preface to Parnassus 1874
"How much there is in simply seeing! . . we are as much as we see."
Thoreau, Journal 9 April 1841
"My father used to speak of the 'poetry of life'; and without that
poetry - that magic - [the] body may be fed by planners and economists, but the
soul dies. It is for this that the arts exist, not as entertainment, or as a
pastime, hobby, therapy and the like, but as the living mainstream of any
Kathleen Raine, 'The use of poetry', Temenos Academy Review 7, p. 21.
"An artist is one who knows how life should always be lived at its best
and is always aware of how badly he is doing it. An artist is one who knows he is failing in living and
feeds his remorse by making something fair . . ."
Thornton Wilder, introduction to The Angel that troubled the waters, Longmans, 1928
"Poetry teaches a man to do more than observe merely factual errors and
measurable truths . . . it compels him to resist stock responses, because it
compels him to examine the emotional significance, as well as the rational
significance, of whatever comes under his notice."
Norman MacCaig, 'My way of it', Chapman 16 (Summer 1976). Quoted in Marjory McNeil, Norman MacCaig, a study of his life and work, Mercat Press (1996), p. 99.