beautiful monsters: Defining Poetry

January 01, 2003

Defining Poetry

“Poetry is that art of the marvellous; a simultaneous compression of language and an endless expansion of meaning.” – Fred D’Aguiar.

“Poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted.” - Percy Shelley

“Poetry is what gets lost in translation.” - Robert Frost.

“Poetry is thoughts that breathe, and words that burn.” - Thomas Gray.

“The poem is
A plank laid over the lion’s den.” – James K Baxter.

“Poetry puts the infinite within the finite.” – Robert Browning.

“Poetry is the revelation of a feeling that the poet believes to be interior and personal which the reader recognises as his own.” - Salvatore Quasimodo

“Prose: words in their best order; poetry: the best words in the best order.” – Coleridge.

"A poet, any real poet, is simply an alchemist who transmutes his cynicism regarding human beings into an optimism regarding the moon, the stars, the heavens, and the flowers, to say nothing of Spring, love and dogs." - George Jean Nathan.

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

“Poetry is the music of the soul.” – Voltaire.

“Poetry is the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge.” - William Wordsworth

“There is poetry as soon as we realize that we possess nothing.” - John Cage

“Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.” - T.S. Eliot

“The end of writing is to instruct; the end of poetry is to instruct by pleasing.” – Samuel Johnson.

“Poetry is not a report on experience, rather the act of writing traces the outer limit of what we feel and understand… it is experience, it is transcendence… poetry is the way in which the mystery of things can be pronounced yet remain unsayable.” – Robert Frost.

“Poetry: all that remains after you remove all that isn't poetry.” - Robert Priest.

“Poetry is all that is worth remembering in life.” - William Hazlitt.

“Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits . . . a series of explanations of life, fading off into horizons too swift for explanation.” - Carl Sandburg.

“The only thing that can save the world is the reclaiming of the awareness of the world. That's what poetry does.” - Allen Ginsberg

“Poetry is the power of defining the indefinable in terms of the unforgettable.” - Louis Untermeyer.

"Poetry is the impish attempt to paint the colour of the wind." - Maxwell Bodenheim

“I have nothing to say and I am saying it and that is poetry.” - John Cage

Poetry should “dirty the silence.” – Bill Manhire (rather presumptuously paraphrased).

“A poem is a verbal artifact which must be as skillfully and solidly constructed as a table or a motorcycle.” - W. H. Auden

“Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.” - Carl Sandburg

“A poem is an instant of lucidity in which the entire organism participates.” - Charles Simic

"A poem is made up of thoughts, each of which filled the whole sky of the poet in its turn." - Ralph Waldo Emerson.

"The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name."
– Shakespeare.

“Not philosophy, after all, not humanity, just the sheer joyous power of song, is the primal thing in poetry.” - Max Beerbohm.

“The difference between poetry and prose is like playing violin and playing the marimba, and I won't say which one's which.” – Bradford Morrow.

“What the poet says has never been said before, but, once he has said it, his readers recognize its validity for themselves.” - W. H. Auden.

“Poetry is to prose as dancing is to walking.” – Paul Valery.

“Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.” - Rita Dove

“I mean poetry can throw out all the punctuation, splatter itself all over the page… I mean the main thing poetry has that prose doesn't have is the use of sound and rhythm, so it can make a musicality if you like. You've got the literal meaning of the word but you can also have the feeling that that the sounds of those words and that in certain combinations create. So you can have a poem that doesn't… you don't actually understand… it doesn't literally make sense, you can't follow it like you should be able to with prose, but you still get it, it still communicates a feeling. So yeah poetry should be the best communication you can have." – James Brown.

“We define poetry as the unofficial view of being.” - Wallace Stevens

“Poetry is either something that lives like fire inside you - like music to the musician . . . or else it is nothing, an empty, formalised bore around which pedants can endlessly drone their notes and explanations.” - F. Scott Fitzgerald

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

“Poetry lies its way to truth.” - John Ciardi.

“Poetry; our way back to the most private of rooms.” - Marianne Boruch

“Poetry is the blossom and the fragrancy of all human knowledge, human thoughts, human passions, emotions, language.” - Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

“Poetry is a packsack of invisible keepsakes.” - Carl Sandburg

“Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.” - Leonard Cohen

“Poetry is the deification of reality.” - Edith Sitwell.

“Each memorable verse of a true poet has two or three times the written content.” - Alfred de Musset

“The main difference between poetry and prose is that the former does its best to make its auditor spend maximal time on each of its words.” – Bob Grumman.

“The only difference between poetry and prose lies in a sufficiency of capital letters in the printer’s type case.” – Charles Russell.

“Poetry reveals, while prose comments." – Jean Paul Satre.

“Poetry is the suggestion, by the imagination, of noble grounds for noble emotions.” - John Rushkin

“Poetry is any written or spoken use of words which seeks to express -through a combined sense of sound and meaning, music, emotion and idea - the full capacity of language(s), testing the very limits of experience, imagination and what can be said.” – Todd Swift.

“Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary.” - Kahlil Gibran

If that is a poem
about the red wheelbarrow
and the white chickens
then any words
can be a poem.
You’ve just got to
- Jack (a character in Love That Dog by Sharon Creech)

“Poetry is not a civilizer, rather the reverse, for great poetry appeals to the most primitive instincts.” - Robinson Jeffers

“Poetry allows one to speak with a power that is not granted by our culture.” - Linda McCarriston

“Poetry is the journal of the sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air. Poetry is a search for syllables to shoot at the barriers of the unknown and the unknowable. Poetry is a phantom script telling how rainbows are made and why they go away.” - Carl Sandburg.

“Poetry is better than nothing.” – Jeff Harrison.

“Poetry; Imaginary gardens with real toads in them.” - Marianne Moore

“If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way?” – Emily Dickinson.

“The poem is the point at which our strength gave out.” - Richard Rosen

“Poetry is language that tells us, through a more or less emotional reaction, something that can not be said.” - E. A. Robinson.

“Poetry is a rich, full-bodied whistle, cracked ice crunching in pails, the night that numbs the leaf, the duel of two nightingales, the sweet pea that has run wild...” - Boris Pasternak

“Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.” – Plato.

what is poetry
but words,
with sounds that slip
across your tongue
and somehow
adhere to your fingers
(or your mind)
and among my favorites
even though
I’m a neophyte
and cyberphyte
words do alight,
with airy whispering
of wings upon my soul.”
– Rita Adams.

"Poetry is not the record of an event; it is an event." – Lowell.

“Poetry is plucking at the heartstrings, and making music with them.” - Dennis Gabor

“What is a poem but a hazardous attempt at self-understanding? It is the deepest part of an autobiography.” - Robert Penn Warren

“Poetry is a language pared down to its essentials.” - Ezra Pound.

“Poetry begins in delight and ends in wisdom.” - Robert Frost.

“Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words.” - Edgar Allan Poe

“Poetry is the art which uses words as both speech and song to reveal the realities that the senses record, the feelings salute, the mind perceives, and the shaping imagination orders.” - Babettes Deutsch.

“Poetry must have something in it that is barbaric, vast and wild.” - Denis Diderot

“Poetry is not an expression of the party line. It's that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public, that's what the poet does.” - Allen Ginsberg

“Poetry is something more scientific and serious than history, because poetry tends to give general truths while history gives particular facts.” – Aristotle.

“Poetry is the language in which man explores his own amazement.” - Christopher Fry

“Poetry is the music of the soul, and, above all, of great and feeling souls.” – Voltaire

“Poetry is the development of an exclamation.” - Paul Valery

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

“Poetry is ordinary language raised to the Nth power.” - Paul Engle.

“Poetry is an orphan of silence. The words never quite equal the experience behind them.” - Charles Simic.

“Poetry is the sublimest activity of the human mind. It is the achievement of beauty and delicacy. The writer of prose can only step aside when the poet passes.” - William Sumerset Maugham

“Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is a speaking picture.” – Simonides.

“Poetry should be great and unobtrusive, a thing which enters into one's soul, and does not startle it or amaze it with itself, but with it's subject.” - John Keats

“Poets view things obliquely. Prose is the hammer that strikes the nail straight, head-on. Poetry gives it a slanting blow.” – Don Holmes.

“Questions stare through life
to the heart of the universe
poetry is born of why.”
– An original (possibly unfinished) poem written with magnetic poetry.

“Poetry says something that cannot be said in prose, and does so in an unforgettable way.” – Joe Horn.

“In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in poetry, it's the exact opposite.” - Paul Dirac

“Poetry is the art of substantiating shadows.” - Edmund Burke

“Poetry is a drama in which objects are cut loose from there moorings and sent flying to make their own connections.” – Louis Simpson.

“Poetry, even when apparently most fantastic, is always a revolt against artifice, a revolt,
in a sense, against actuality.” - James Joyce

“A poem is energy transferred from where the poet got it, by way of the poem itself, all the way over to the reader.” - Charles Olson

“Poetry gives you permission to feel.” - James Autry

“A poem is a construction of inner space. It is language in quest of essence.” - Sven Birkerts.

“Poetry does the same thing as prose, only more so. It takes language to the extreme.” – Leila May

“A poem is a piece of writing in which the words are chosen for their sound and the images and ideas they suggest, not just their obvious meaning. The words are arranged in separate lines, often ending in rhyme.” - Cambridge International Dictionary of English.

“There is no such thing as poetry, only poems.” – Dylan Thomas.

"The wisest definition of poetry the poet will instantly prove false by setting aside its requisitions.” – Thoreau.

“To define what a poem is would require defining human existence. It would require answering why is there something, rather than nothing.” - Charles Simic

“Don’t expect to understand the modern poem… Just let it explode in your face.” – William Carlos Williams.

“I could no more define poetry than a terrier can define a rat.” – A E Houseman.

“What can we do with a definition of poetry what we cannot do without one?” – Peter Turner.

Posted by Fionnaigh at January 1, 2003 10:28 PM | TrackBack