Favorite Quotes on Writing - Please Add Yours Here

"The first task of the poet is to create the person who will write the poems."
                                                                                              Stanley Kunitz

"Originality is nothing other than the deepest honesty."

                                             Denise Levertov

"A poem is a serious joke, one that has learned jujitsu."

                                                William Stafford

"If we don't make our claim, the world is simply that which others have described for us."

                                                Kathleen Fraser

"Art is the attention we pay to the wholeness of the world."

                                                  Guy Davenport

"Poetry gives us the gift of interiority and intimacy with another; it gives us privacy and participation. Poetry is the way we participate in the world."

                                                    Ed Hirsch

"Poetry is the safest of safe sex."

           Robert Hass

"Poetry comes out of the inchoate, unvoiced world we all carry within us."

             Adrienne Rich

"Poetry has a great digestive system and can consume and recycle almost anything."

            Stanley Kunitz

When I first began teaching at the University of Oregon, I began each class with a quote on writing. I must not have been teaching four days a week. I find the right quote at the right time can amplify my own belief in words. As the school year winds down and I look forward to focusing on my own writing again, I am in search of more quotes. Maybe I will find exactly what I need to learn right now. Maybe from the quote you leave for me.


  1. Oh, wonderful stuff. Thank you for gathering these quotations!

  2. Gender [sic] understood throughout:

    "There is another reason for the crisis situation that has developed -- man's tendency to get bogged-down in triviality. Religion used to provide him with an arbitrary sense of purpose, of distant goals, to contrast with the triviality of everyday living. He has become intelligent enough to reject the paraphernalia of old religions without having achieved the sense of evolutionary purpose -- which is implicit in art and poetry -- to rescue him from the triviality. And since the immense effort of the 19th century, art has ceased to be a vehicle of heroic idealism, and is temporarily in a doldrums where it can only reflect the triviality, and take up an attitude of disgust and rejection toward it." Colin Wilson

    See also www.csudh.edu/ccauthen/325S09/Quotes.htm

  3. It is always fun and sometimes enlightening to see the words of others that stick with us.

    "A poem begins in delight . . . and ends in a clarification of life . . . a momentary stay against confusion." ~ Robert Frost

    "To write a poem, follow any thread but don't pull it." ~ William Stafford

    "In the particular presence of memorable language we can find a reminder of our ability to know and retain knowledge itself: the 'brightness wherein all things come to see'." ~ Robert Pinsky

    "The medium of poetry is a human body: the column of air inside the chest, shaped into signifying sounds in the larynx and the mouth. In this sense, poetry is just as physical or bodily an art as dancing." ~ Robert Pinsky

    "To develop a relationship with a poem is something like falling in love--with all the wonder and challenge that can bring. . . Once you know a poem deeply, you have a gift you can give others as well as yourself." ~ Kim Rosen

    "The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives." ~ Audre Lorde

  4. "I never blame failure... but I am absolutely merciless toward lack of effort." -F. Scott Fitzgerald

  5. "We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection." ~ Anais Nin

    This is one of my favorites. I have it posted in my blog because it rings so true to me. No who writes or how its written it is their memory to relive forever.

  6. Robert I love that quote but another Anais Nin quote I cling to is, "The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say."

    Then there is Anton Chekhov's instructions... "Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass."

    Gosh there are so many good ones. I think the one I currently have on my blog heading is a good one to remember and we beat ourselves up over our writing poetry.... "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

    Good post Susan. Anxious to see other quotes.

  7. I love the Chekhov quote -- and so many of the others. I am so happy to see other people's favorites. Keep them coming!

  8. Forgot this one - "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

    ~Samuel Beckett

  9. Another one I find interesting...

    "Writing is both mask and unveiling." - E.B. White

  10. Thanks, Michael,
    I didn't know that one and I like it very much. Utterly true -

  11. I love quotes about writing. Here are a few. Alas, my notebooks are at my writing space...

    "Writing is like driving a car at night: you can only see as far as your headlights, but you eventually reach your destination." —E. L. Doctorow

    "Our real poems are already in us and all we can do is dig." —Jonathan Galassi

    "Only one thing remained reachable, close and secure amid all losses: language. Yes, language. In spite of everything, it remained secure against loss." —Paul Celan

    And I love the Beckett quote. Must remember it.

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


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