The HyperTexts

Poetry Quotes

This page contains quotes about poetry by poets, artists, critics and laymen. Here you will find the expected (Shakespeare, Yeats, Frost, Blake) and the unexpected (Abraham Lincoln, Ben Franklin and J. F. Kennedy).

Poetry is the journal of a sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air.—Carl Sandburg

Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.—Carl Sandburg

A poet is a man who manages, in a lifetime of standing out in thunderstorms, to be struck by lightning five or six times.—Randall Jarrell

We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth.—John F. Kennedy

Poetry is the art of uniting pleasure with truth.—Samuel Johnson

Poetry is the best words in the best order.—Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Abraham Lincoln memorized the poem "Mortality" by William Knox, although he didn't  know the author's identity at the time. Lincoln "became so identified with the poem that some people thought he had written it." He once remarked, "I would give all I am worth, and go in debt, to be able to write so fine a piece as I think that is."

When I am dead, I hope it may be said:
His sins were scarlet, but his books were read.
Hilaire Belloc

For July 4th, 2005 we added a page of poetry by, about and admired by Abraham Lincoln. On this page, you'll find lines penned by Lincoln that are at times reminiscent of Dickinson, Poe, Clare and Herrick. You'll also find what might be the raciest poem of the 1860s, also written by Lincoln. This bit of ribald doggerel was said to have been "more popular than the Bible" in southern Illinois! Lincoln was a poet and a true admirer and lover of poetry, once remarking of a particular poem, "I would give all I am worth, and go in debt, to be able to write so fine a piece ..."

The poem comes in the form of a blessing, like rapture breaking on the mind.—Stanley Kunitz

The poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth,
From earth to heaven.
William Shakespeare "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

Of our conflicts with others we make rhetoric; of our conflicts with ourselves we make poetry.—William Butler Yeats

I have my books
And my poetry to protect me;
I am shielded in my armor.
Paul Simon "I Am a Rock"

Poetry comes nearer to vital truth than history.—Plato

I know as well as thee that I am no poet born
It is a trade, I never learnt nor indeed could learn
If I make verses—'tis in spite
Of nature and my stars I write.
Benjamin Franklin

A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness.Robert Frost

Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.Robert Frost

Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words.—Edgar Allan Poe

It is Homer who has chiefly taught other poets the art of telling lies skillfully.—Aristotle

When power leads man toward arrogance,
poetry reminds him of his limitations.
When power narrows the areas of man's concern,
poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence.
When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Anyone who breathes is in the rhythm business.—William Stafford

But Fear and the Muse in turn guard the place
Where the banished poet has gone
And the night that comes with quickened pace
Is ignorant of dawn.
Anna Akhmatova

Poetry begins in delight and ends in wisdom.—Robert Frost

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.
Mark Strand

Works of art are of an infinite solitariness, and nothing is less likely to bring us near to them than criticism.—Ranier Maria Rilke

Poetry is boned with ideas, nerved and blooded with emotions, all held together by the delicate, tough skin of words.—Paul Engle

Each has his past shut in him like the leaves of a book known to him by heart and his friends can only read the title.—Virginia Woolf

... give up verse, my boy,
there's nothing in it.
Ezra Pound "Hugh Selwyn Mauberly (Part I)"

There's no money in poetry, but then there's no poetry in money, either.—Robert Graves

Poets aren't very useful
Because they aren't consumeful or produceful.
Ogden Nash

Eyes are vocal, tears have tongues,
And there are words not made with lungs.
Richard Crashaw

Value your words. Each one may be the last.—Stanislaw J. Lec

Readers and listeners praise my books;
You swear they're worse than a beginner's.
Who cares? I always plan my dinners
To please the diners, not the cooks.
—Martial, translated by R. L. Barth

Poetic power is great, strong as a primitive instinct; it has its own unyielding rhythms in itself and breaks out as out of mountains.—Ranier Maria Rilke

You are young, and I am older;
    You are hopeful, I am not—
Enjoy life, ere it grow colder—
    Pluck the roses ere they rot.
—Abraham Lincoln, "To Rosa"

Life, like a dome of many-colored glass,
Stains the white radiance of eternity.
Percy Bysshe Shelley

The true philosopher and the true poet are one, and a beauty, which is truth, and a truth, which is beauty, is the aim of both.—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained.—William Blake

The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.—Mark Twain

In poetry, you must love the words, the ideas and the images and rhythms with all your capacity to love anything at all.—Wallace Stevens

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

Paradoxically though it may seem, it is none the less true that life imitates art far more than art imitates life.—Oscar Wilde

Improvement makes strait roads, but the crooked roads without improvement are the roads of Genius.—William Blake

I know where Wells grow—
Droughtless Wells—
I think a little Well— like Mine—
Dearer to understand—
—Emily Dickinson

Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.—Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Swans sing before they die— 'twere no bad thing
should certain people die before they sing!
—Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The poet is the priest of the invisible.—Wallace Stevens

The sensual man conforms thoughts to things; the poet conforms things to his thoughts.—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Fantasy, abandoned by reason, produces impossible monsters; united with it, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of marvels.—Francisco Goya

I know poetry's indispensable, but to what I couldn't say.—Jean Cocteau

With me poetry has not been a purpose, but a passion.—Edgar Allan Poe

"Don't teach my boy poetry," an English mother recently wrote the Provost of Harrow. "Don't teach my boy poetry; he is going to stand for Parliament." Well, perhaps she was right—but if more politicians knew poetry, and more poets knew politics, I am convinced the world would be a little better place to live.—John Fitzgerald Kennedy

The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar, and familiar things new.—Samuel Johnson

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.—George Bernard Shaw

Viewed from the summit of reason, all life looks like a malignant disease and the world like a madhouse.—Johann Wolfgang Van Goethe

Poetry is not a profession, it is a destiny.—Mikhail Dudan

It is absurd to think the only way to tell if a poem is lasting is to wait and see if it lasts. The right reader of a good poem can tell the moment it strikes him that he has taken an immortal woundthat he will never get over it. That is to say, permanence in poetry as in love is perceived instantly. It hasn't to await the test of time.Robert Frost

At a literary luncheon at which he was being lionized, Robert Browning was asked about the meaning of one of his more obscure poems. He answered, "Madam, when I wrote that poem, only God and I knew what it meant. Now, I'm chagrined to say, only God knows!"

One merit of poetry few persons will deny: it says more and in fewer words than prose.—Voltaire

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. To quote from Whitman, 'O me! O life! ... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless—of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?' Answer. That you are here—that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse ... What will your verse be?—Tom Schulman "The Dead Poets Society"

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