Quotenik
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poetry

“He could read the phonebook and make it sound terrific.”

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source: describing Dylan Thomas in “A Useful Poetry,” interview by Wen Stephenson, The Atlantic, April 8, 1999.

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medium: Interview

“Once as I looked up I saw a big, pure drop of rain slip from leaf to leaf of a clematis vine. The thought occurred to me that it was just such quick, unexpected, commonplace, specific things that poets and other observers jot down in their note-books.”

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source: Journal entry dated July 18, 1899, in The Letters of Wallace Stevens (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966), 29.

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medium: Journal

“Let it all begin once more, the step-by-step joyful effort to lift a poem out.”

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source: The House by the Sea (New York: W. W. Norton, 1977), 49.

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medium: Journal

“All the way down through the moonlight beside the river I was literally attacked by so many poems that I felt like a juggler, terrified that I couldn’t keep them all going long enough at least to jot down a note. When I arrived, I made a dash for the typewriter, coat still on and typed like automatic writing for half an hour.”

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source: letter to Louise Bogan, in May Sarton: Selected Letters 1955–1995 (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2002), 37.

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medium: Letter

“If poetry was a rope, then the books themselves were rafts. At my most precarious I balanced on a book, and the books rafted me over the tides of feelings that left me soaked and shattered.”

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source: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (New York: Grove Press, 2011), 164.

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medium: Memoir

“Poetry (at any rate in my case) is like trying to remember a tune you’ve forgotten. All corrections are attempts to get nearer to the forgotten tune. A poem is written because the poet gets a sudden vision—lasting one second or less—and he attempts to express the whole of which the vision is a part.”

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source: letter to J. B. Sutton, December 20, 1940, Selected Letters of Philip Larkin: 1940-1985 (New York: Faber & Faber, 1999).

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medium: Letter

“I did a lot of fishing when I was a little younger—surfcasting—and it’s like when you get a strike. Something heavy and alive is on the end of the line and you don’t know what it is but you can feel the power of it and you have to pull it in. When you feel you’ve got a line that’s pulling a lot of emotional freight with it, then you know you’ve probably started a poem.”

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source: Interview by Maggie Paley, BOMB magazine (website), March 2010.

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medium: Interview

“A poem by Rilke is as real and as important as a young man falling out of an airplane. That’s something I must engrave on my heart.”

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source: An Interrupted Life: The Diaries of Etty Hillesum 1941–43 (New York: Washington Square Books, 1985), 41–42.

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medium: Diary

“Poetry is an art of beginnings and ends. You want middles, read novels. You want happy endings, read cookbooks.”

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source: The Art of Recklessness: Poetry as Assertive Force and Contradiction (Minneapolis, MN: Graywolf Press, 2010), 86.

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medium: Literary Criticism

“A lot of metaphor must be in the beholder’s eye. My kind of mind is so used to ‘seeing double’ that it finds unwelcome subtexts in an instruction manual…A psychiatrist friend calls the creative temperament Janusian—after Janus, whose nature is to look both ways. I thought everybody was like that but he said no, that for him, the implications of phrases like a ‘dark white’ or a ‘burning cold’—which are mother’s milk to me—left him feeling, you know, seasick…”

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source: “James Merrill,” interviewed by Thomas Bolt, BOMB magazine, Issue 36, Summer 1991.

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medium: Interview

“Even the hardest of the sciences depend on a foundation of metaphors. To be aware of metaphors is to be humbled by the complexity of the world, to realize that deep in the undercurrents of thought there are thousands of lenses popping up between us and the world, and that we’re surrounded at all times by what Steven Pinker of Harvard once called ‘pedestrian poetry.’” 

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source: “Poetry for Everyday Life,” The New York Times, April 11, 2011.

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medium: Op-Ed

“Usually I try to create a hospitable tone at the beginning of a poem. Stepping from the title to the first lines is like stepping into a canoe. A lot of things can go wrong.”

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source: “On Literary Bridge, Poet Hits a Roadblock,” by Bruce Weber, The New York Times, December 19, 1999.

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medium: newspaper article

via: The Writer's Almanac

“Word by word a poem is built. The choice of one over another implies an attitude and reflects the writer’s beliefs, insights, and character. Think of forestry bosses calling the killing of trees ‘harvesting,’ or of Dick Cheney calling water boarding ‘robust interrogation.’ Albert Camus went so far as to say, ‘Naming an object inaccurately means adding to the unhappiness of the world.’”

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source: “Holding Feathers in Your Teeth,” introduction to The Best Canadian Poetry in English (Toronto: Tightrope Books, 2010), xi.

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medium: Introduction

“I am growing more and more honorable every time the moon comes safely through an eclipse. (Subject for a poem.)”

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source: October 12, 1938 letter to Louis Untermeyer from Boston, Massachusetts, in The Letters of Robert Frost to Louis Untermeyer (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1963), 313.

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medium: Letter

“In cutting marble and in drawing with silver point you can’t undo what you have done. So may my writing be. Stet is my slogan. And if it can’t stand let it set.”

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source: September 6, 1938 letter to Louis Untermeyer, in The Letters of Robert Frost to Louis Untermeyer (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1963), 310–11.

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medium: Letter

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