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Writers and Poets on Poetry and Writing

One should only read books which bite and sting one. If the book we are reading does not wake us up with a blow to the head, what’s the point in reading? A book must be the axe which smashes the frozen sea within us. Franz Kafka

If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire ever can warm me I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. Emily Dickinson

Poetry; the best words in the best order. Coleridge

Poetry is the art of using words charged with their utmost meaning. Dana Gioia

It is a widening of consciousness, an extension of humanity. We sense an ideal version when we read, and with it arm ourselves, to quarrel with reality. David Constantine

Poems come out of wonder, not out of knowing. Lucille Clifton

A writer is not interested in explaining reality; he’s interested in capturing it.Brendan Kennelly

Poetry helps us to understand common things better…Poetry will not teach us how to live well, but it will incite in us the wish to. David Constantine

Poetry is a zoo in which you keep demons and angels. Les Murray

Poetry is a way of talking about things that frighten you. Mick Imlah

If I knew where poems came from, I’d go there. Michael Longley

All quotes above taken from the wonderful  STAYING ALIVE Real Poems for Unreal Times edited by Neil Astley (Miramax Books).

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. 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. Dead Poets Society

Taken from the equally wonderful BEING HUMAN edited by Neil Astley (Bloodaxe Books)


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