Frost on Writing Poetry


Reading Robert Frost on writing poetry is nice ice after the fire of his poems. You can tell the man was a teacher once upon a time.

Frost can be forgiven his prejudices and miscues. He disliked the poetry of Wallace Stevens, for instance, comparing it to “bric-a-brac.” He was not a fan of Walden or Robinson Crusoe. But if you focus on quotes about the writing life alone, it’s like a sweating glass of iced tea on a hot summer day. Bracing!

Below, then, a few quotes to distract you from that blank page or screen:


“To be a poet is a condition, not a profession.”

“A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom.”

“The artist in me cries out for design.”

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

“I have never started a poem yet whose end I knew. Writing a poem is discovering.”

“The surest way to reach the heart [of the reader] is through the ear. The visual images thrown up by a poem are important, but it is more important still to choose and arrange words in a sequence so as virtually to control the intonations and pauses of the reader’s voice. By arrangement and choice of words on the part of the poet, the effects of humor, pathos, hysteria,  anger, and in fact, all effects, can be indicated or obtained.”

“The ear is the only true writer and the only true reader.”

“The best way out is always through.”

“Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down.”

“A poem is best read in the light of all the other poems ever written…Progress is not the aim, but circulation.”

“Enthusiasm must be forced through the prism of metaphor.”

“For me the initial delight is in the surprise of remembering something I didn’t know I knew.”

“Every poem is the epitome of the great predicament; a figure of the will braving alien entanglements.”


Not sure I can buy in on the free verse quote, but it’s to be expected from a guy married to form poems. Me, I don’t much traffic in form (only one published form poem to my credit so far), but my ear DOES enjoy stopping by woods on snowy evenings. Ah, the sound of snow!