On Poetry


I have not always had a love affair with poetry. As a child, I found myself forced to memorize verses and rhymes I did not understand nor liked or wished to understand. I was not fond at all of dead Romanian poets (who all happened to be white men, though this did not ring any bells at the time); in fact, I hated them and whatever they had to say, which almost always included something about the weather, the moonlight in the lover’s (always a young girl) hair (almost always blonde). I was somehow under the impression all poems had to deal with romance or else they weren’t classified as poetry. They did not speak my language, I did not speak theirs. I was a stranger to poetry and had all intentions to remain so. I have rediscovered poetry many years later, when it was revealed to me that poetry is more, far more than what I had previously thought. I found a cluster of shapes, sizes, colors, flavors, dimensions, and layers and felt like a kid in Wonderland thinking: “I can wonder, but can I play too?” Poetry can be about playfulness and introspection, it can degenerate into candid nightmares and infinite madness and it can melt into nebulae and plain distorted fantasy.

Here are some thoughts on poetry which I find inspirational and which do not seek to define poetry, but rather to expand it:

  1. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. Emily Dickinson

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

  3. Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful. Rita Dove

  4. Poets are soldiers that liberate words from the steadfast possession of definition. Eli Khamarov

  5. 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

  6. Poetry is everywhere; it just needs editing. James Tate

  7. All poets, all writers are political. They either maintain the status quo, or they say, ’Something’s wrong, let’s change it for the better.’ Sonia Sanchez

  8. Writing poetry is a state of free float. Margaret Atwood

  9. Poetry is the cockroach of the arts. Christopher Nealon (in reference to the subversive side of poetry in relation to capitalism. Read article here: http://archive.magazine.jhu.edu/2011/06/the-poetic-subversion-of-capitalism/)

  10. There is not a particle of life which does not bear poetry within it. Gustave Flaubert

  11. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses. When power leads man towards his 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. JF Kennedy

  12. The courage of the poet is to keep ajar the door that leads into madness. Christopher Morley

  13. Poetry is important because it makes us think, it opens us up to wonder and the sometimes astonishing possibilities of language. It is, in its subtle yet powerful way, a discipline for reengaging with a world we take too much for granted. John Burnside

  14. Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. Percy Bysshe Shelley

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

  16. Writing poetry for me is writing refusal, an open-eyed plunge into the anarchy of rebellion. Kathleen Tyler

  17. Poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted. Percy Bysshe Shelley

  18. Poetry is not only dream and vision; it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundations for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before. Audre Lorde

  19. Poetry is the deification of reality. Edith Sitwell

  20. A poet’s autobiography is his poetry. Anything else is just a footnote. Yevgeny Yevtushenko

  21. Wanted: a needle swift enough to sew this poem into a blanket. Charles Simic

  22. Pain is filtered in a poem so that it becomes finally, in the end, pleasure. Mark Strand

  23. If my poetry aims to achieve anything, it’s to deliver people from the limited ways in which they see and feel. Jim Morrison

  24. Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history. Plato

  25. Poetry is not revolution but a way of knowing why it must come. Adrienne Rich

I have recently asked myself: where does (my) life end and where does poetry begin? And the answer is: there’s no ending and no beginning. They are somewhat like the DNA spiraling strands. And a final thought: If you read something and don’t know what it is or what is about, it’s probably poetry. Poetry that is meaningful nonsense that is rich and irrational, full of ravishment and twists and infinitely yours.

5 thoughts on “On Poetry

  1. I like this, your words and the quotes. And let’s not forget what Leonard said, ““Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.”


  2. I had a similar experience. I never particularly enjoyed poetry as a child (I had a few poems I loved but I was exposed to too much too young overall I think) and absolutely dreaded it in school. At school in particular it seemed like everything was focused on poets who meant very little to me and said nothing about my country and it all felt so irrelevant. It wasn’t until I was much older that I really started to appreciate poetry and eventually started writing myself. I think a lot of people probably have similar stories which is sad.

    I love that quote by Shelley. Describes how I feel about poetry (and writing in general) perfectly.


  3. Indeed, the poets I studied in school didn’t reach me through their poems. It’s good to know other people have gone through this as well. For me, it was a gradual process. I still learn to appreciate poetry every day 🙂

    I am glad you enjoyed the quotes – the Shelley one resonates with me a lot as well.

    Thank you for the comment! Always a pleasure 🙂


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