What Good is Poetry? 11 Quotes


April is the beginning of Spring, baseball, and also National Poetry Month. Three things I love. Most people love two of these in the concrete and the last only possibly in the abstract. Many will enjoy a ballgame at some point. And Spring, throughout the season, with a hike, or around a grill and patio furniture. But poetry? Not really. For over thirty years I’ve kinda been alone in my love of poetry. Thankfully, my dad loved to write occasional poems and my parents encouraged my writing of them. I always felt like there was a power in them, I neither understood nor could communicate. That is still true for the most part. Whenever I talk to people who want to write or be a better writer, I always say, they need to read the poets. It can only make prose better. But there is value for non-writers, too. The following quotes – mostly by poets – will, I hope, help some of you see that value.

1. “Poetry is the journal of the sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air.” – Carl Sandburg

2. “Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.” – T.S. Eliot

3. Such a small, pure object a poem could be, made of nothing but air a tiny string of letters, maybe small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. But it could blow everybody’s head off. – Mary Karr

4. “A poet’s work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep.” – Salman Rushdie

5. “We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry.” – William Butler Yeats

6. “Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.” – Leonardo da Vinci

7. “Poetry is eternal graffiti written in the heart of everyone.” – Lawrence Ferlinghetti

8. “Poetry is what in a poem makes you laugh, cry, prickle, be silent, makes your toe nails twinkle, makes you want to do this or that or nothing, makes you know that you are alone in the unknown world, that your bliss and suffering is forever shared and forever all your own.” – Dylan Thomas

9. “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. ― Emily Dickinson”

10. The meaning of poetry is to give courage. A poem is not a puzzle that you the dutiful reader are obliged to solve. It is meant to poke you, get you to buck up, pay attention, rise and shine, look alive, get a grip, get the picture, pull up your socks, wake up and die right. . . . Forget everything you ever read about poetry, it doesn’t matter–poetry is the last preserve of honest speech and the outspoken heart. – Garrison Keillor

11. “Poetry is the clear expression of mixed feelings.” – W.H. Auden

2 thoughts on “What Good is Poetry? 11 Quotes

  1. Hanna April 7, 2018 / 10:13 am

    These are all terrific, though Auden and Keillor might be my two favorites.

  2. 2charp April 7, 2018 / 3:33 pm

    Love these, thanks for the reminder about poetry month!

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