If you are like most human beings, chances are good that your introduction to poetry was totally lame — an unholy cocktail of roses are red, violets are blue, bad limericks, and trying to figure out what the big deal was about iambic pentameter.
Bummer. Big bummer. Humongous bummer. And why it’s such a bummer is because poetry — at least the good stuff — is the fast track to feeling, clarity, and understanding in your bones what it really means to be alive.
What follows are 21 juicy quotes from 21 juicy people doing their poetic best to distill the estimated 860 million words a person speaks in a lifetime down to sentence or two in a grand attempt to let the rest of us in on the mostly untold secret of poetry. Enjoy!
“Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.” — Leonard Cohen
“The poet is the priest of the invisible.” — Wallace Stevens
“If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” — Emily Dickinson
“Poetry is eternal graffiti written in the heart of everyone.” — Lawrence Ferlinghetti
“Poetry is the deification of reality.” — Edith Sitwell
“Poetry is a way of taking life by the throat.” — Robert Frost
“There’s a reason poets often say, ‘Poetry saved my life,’ for often the blank page is the only one listening to the soul’s suffering, the only one registering the story completely, the only one receiving all softly and without condemnation.” — Clarissa Pinkola Estes
“Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.” — T.S. Eliot
“Poetry is the one place where people can speak their original human mind. It is the outlet for people to say in public what is known in private.” — Allen Ginsberg
“Poetry is the liquid voice that can wear through stone.” — Adrienne Rich
“A poem is never finished, only abandoned.” — Paul Valery
“Poetry is my cheap means of transportation. By the end of the poem the reader should be in a different place from where he started. I would like him to be slightly disoriented at the end, like I drove him outside of town at night and dropped him off in a cornfield.” — Billy Collins
“I have nothing to say, I am saying it, and that is poetry.” — John Cage
“To be a poet is a condition, not a profession.” Robert Graves
“Poetry might be defined as the clear expression of mixed feelings.” — W.H. Auden
“Poetry is more a threshold than a path.” — Seamus Heaney
“A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it. A good poem helps to change the shape of the universe, helps to extend everyone’s knowledge of himself and the world around him.” — Dylan Thomas
“I consider myself a poet first and a musician second. I live like a poet and I’ll die like a poet.” — Bob Dylan
“Breathe-in experience, breathe-out poetry.” — Muriel Rukeyser
“A poet’s autobiography is his poetry. Anything else is just a footnote.” — Yevgeny Yevtushenko
“I was reading the dictionary. I thought it was a poem about everything.” — Steven Wright