Tuesday, March 13, 2007

If You Missed it The First Time Around: Pronouncements on Poets & Poetry (Abridged)

'The prospect of one's child becoming a poet is a parent's nightmare, conjuring up, as Michael Dirda put it so well... "a life of little magazines no one reads, temporary appointments at junior colleges, servile groveling for National Endowment for the Arts grants and Guggenheims, joyless affairs with students that wreck marriages and, at the end, the long look down into the river or the last glance around the kitchen before turning on the gas." And all that botheration never, somehow, furnishes material for poetry or even acts as a wellspring of language.'

Katherine A Powers, The Boston Globe, 23 March 2003

'Most literary reputation is fragile and fleeting, and the reputation of poets especially so. Their stock is traded on a Nasdaq of singular cruelty and volatility.'

Charles McGrath, New York Times, 15 June 2003

'To devote a life to poetry looks to most people like a decision to ignore the benefits of modern life, in particular the power of money to effect any meaningful progress. It looks suspiciously like sulking.'

Hugo Williams, Times Literary Supplement, 18 April 2003

'Poetry has always attracted more than its fair share of the seriously unhinged.'

Christina Patterson, The Independent, 10 May 2003

'Poetry, like all art, is a manifestation of other, deeper things. It can be too highly prized by the poet. It can never be too highly prized at the moment of a poet's or reader's engagement with it, but it can be crucially overestimated in a larger context.'

Marvin Bell, American Poetry Review, January/February 2003

'One of the ridiculous aspects of being a poet is the huge gulf between how seriously we take ourselves and how generally we are ignored by everybody else.'

Billy Collins, New York Times, 23 February 2003

'We have never lived in a time when poetry was treated with such reverence by those who do not really enjoy it.'

AN Wilson, The Daily Telegraph, 10 March 2003

'Trying to compare the blurbs on a book of poetry to the contents is like trying to compare a description of angel wings to actual angel wings. The blurbs employ extravagantly unverifiable descriptions of the contents...'

Joan Houlihan, The Boston Comment VI, 2003

'Too often, the focus on literal truth presents us not with the essence or core of the poet's being, but with the patio furniture of his or her life.'

David Alpaugh, Poets & Writers, March/April 2003

'One reason poetry lasts is because there is no single way to read a poem. A poem is irreducible.'

Michael Wiegers, This Art, Copper Canyon 2003

'A poet cannot refuse language, choose another medium. But the poet can re-fuse the language given to him or her, bend and torque it into an instrument for connection instead of dominance and apartheid.'

Adrienne Rich, The Guardian, 26 April 2003

'Of course poetry is irrelevant to the "real" world of power and politics, but so is philosophy, painting, music and any other human activity where something genuine can be found.'

Charles Simic, The Age, 9 March 2003

'Perhaps the ultimate role of poets is to be hidden but ready like firefighters to come forth in emergency.'

Martin Arnold, New York Times, 6 February 2003

'Writing poetry is the best way I know of untying the knot of obsession. It's cheaper than therapy and better for you than getting drunk.'

Gwyneth Lewis, PBS Bulletin, Summer 2003

'I like reading poetry at night — a doctor I know claims that this is because "poetry is the only thing you can read when you're drunk".'

John Lanchester, The Sunday Times, 1 June 2003

'Memory is each man's poet-in-residence.'

Stanley Kunitz, quoted in Kansas City Star, 16 February 2003

'What's extraordinary about ballet, and I think the same is true of poetry, is that you have to learn the steps... You do the exercises over and over again until your body screams with pain and then you have to infuse it with some other element to make it look effortless and lighter than air.'

Adam Thorpe, The Independent, 17 May 2003

'A great poem can be spotted in a crowd and... the writers who most successfully shake off the mannerisms of the day are the ones most likely to produce work that survives it.'

Eric McHenry, Parnassus, Vol. 26 No. 2

'Poetry teaches us that it is possible to have two opposing thoughts at once, which our master cultural narratives seem to deny.'

Edward Hirsch, Five Points, Vol. 2 No. 2, 2003

'Writing poetry is like finding your way home and you didn't know you were lost.'

Diane Lockward, The Star-Ledger, 26 April 2003

'The making of poems is mysteriously tied up with not-knowing, with willing ignorance and an openness to mutation.'

Tony Hoagland, American Poetry Review, July 1 August 2003

'Poetry is a concise way of participating in others' experience.'

Jay Rogoff, The Saratogian, 3 June 2003

'Poetry is born out of the superfluity of language's own resources and energy. It's a kind of overdoing it. Enough is not enough when it comes to poetry.'

Seamus Heaney, Giving Their Word, 2002

'Lyric poetry speaks out of a solitude to a solitude. It begins and ends in silence. It crystallizes our inwardness and makes space for our subjectivity, naming our inner life.'

Edward Hirsch, Five Points, Vol. 2 No. 2, 2003

'Lyrics can lift one's heart, prose can make one think, and speeches can move one to action. Poetry can do all three.'

Robyn Hammer-Clarey, Post-Gazette, 25 May 2003

'The prose poem is the result of two contradictory impulses, prose and poetry, and therefore cannot exist, but it does. This is the sole instance we have of squaring the circle.'

Charles Simic, quoted in American Poetry Review, March/April 2003

'Poetry is closer to speech than prose... Speech involves strategies that are inappropriate to prose but are essential to poetry. Hesitations, repetitions, hints, refrains.'

Germaine Greer, The Guardian, 1 March 2003

'Much of our mainstream poetry is confined by an ethic of sincerity and the unstated wish to be admired (if not admired, liked; if not liked, sympathized with). American poetry still largely believes... that a poem is straightforward autobiographical testimony to, among other things, the decency of the speaker.'

Tony Hoagland, American Poetry Review, March/April 2003

'The poem that refuses to risk sentimentality, that refuses to risk making a statement, is probably a poem that is going to feel lukewarm. So I'm in favor of work that if it fails, fails on the side of boldness, passion, intensity.'

Mark Doty, The Charlotte Observer, 14 March 2003

'Poems still get written, naturally, but the flames, one suspects, don't burn quite so hot these days. Poets behave better, live longer and probably settle for less.'

Charles McGrath, New York Times, 15 June 2003

'The ground is currently thick with poets dropping obliquities like phone numbers on napkins, in part because of the ease with which this method can be adopted.'

David Orr, Poetry Magazine, June 2003

'If you have doubts about the poem you have written, the kind of doubts that make you want to ask a friend what he or she thinks, don't bother. Trust the doubts.'

Wesley McNair, Mapping the Heart, Carnegie Mellon, 2003

'There is only one real reason to read a poem, and that is to find your way to a larger life than would otherwise be yours to live. This is also the only reason to write a poem.'

Jane Hirshfield, The Writer's Chronicle, March/ April 2003

'There's one subject in lyric poetry, and that is that you have this existence and at the end of it you're going to experience non-existence.'

Billy Collins, The Independent, 31 May 2003

'Poets are like aerialists: the wire they walk. stretches from history to eternity, fact to dream, language to silence. When they get across we feel rapture. They've taken us with them.'

Margo Jefferson, New York Times, 11 May 2003

'Trying to write a good poem is like running off a cliff to see if you can fly. Most of the time you can't, but every once in a while something happens.'

Marvin Bell, American Poetry Review, January/February 2003

* source - Dennis O'Driscoll - Poetry Ireland Review - reprinted on Poetry Daily


aka Leonardo Likes Gulls said...

'To devote a life to poetry looks to most people like a decision to ignore the benefits of modern life, in particular the power of money to effect any meaningful progress. It looks suspiciously like sulking.'

Did he mean sulking or slacking? ;-)


Suzanne said...

Thanks for this, Nick!

Nick said...

As of late, in my case he probably meant slacking. :-)

Prego, Suzanne. :-)

Collin said...

Good set of quotes. I guess I'd better get ready to start groveling for my Guggie and finding somebody to have an affair with. I'm seriously behind.

Anonymous said...

ld read these all day.

I had the privilege of hearing Michael Wiegers speak in a panel discussion at Pacific, and he really knows his stuff. The kind of publisher you hope is really out there - smart, dedicated and pragmatic.

Here's to jumping off more cliffs!

Lyle Daggett said...

Enjoyed reading these. Especially like the ones by Adrienne Rich and Germaine Greer.

Thanks for posting this here.

Nick said...

Collin, groveling works for me...

Robert, You jump first..I'm right behind you...

Lyle, I'm kinda partial to the Wilson and Jefferson quotes. But heck, they all hold water if you think about it.

jenni said...

sylkggtGreat quotes Nick! Thanks!

Nick said...

My pleasure, Jenni.

Anonymous said...

OK, here I go ... you packed the emergency parachute, right?


Nick said...

Hell - I knew I forgot something....

Sam of the ten thousand things said...

I enjoyed this a great deal Nick. Thanks.

Nick said...

Glad you enjoyed the post, Sam.