Poetry Unconventionally Defined


Standard dictionary definitions are of little use when you’re in the mood for a little fun. It’s better to hear the experts themselves. Poets. They’ll say anything, sometimes coming closer to the heart of the matter than Merriam or Webster. Here are a few of my favorites culled from the web:

“Poetry: three mismatched shoes at the entrance of a dark alley.” (Charles Simic)

“Poetry is a sword of lightning, ever unsheathed, which consumes the scabbard that would contain it.” (Percy Bysshe Shelley)

“Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down.” (Robert Frost)

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

“Poetry is, at bottom, a criticism of life.” (Matthew Arnold)

“I could no more define poetry than a terrier can define a rat.” (A.E. Housman)

“I’ve had it with these cheap sons of bitches who claim they love poetry but never buy a book.” (Kenneth Rexroth)

“Poetry is what in a poem makes you laugh, cry, prickle, be silent, makes your toe nails twinkle, makes you want to do this or that or nothing, makes you know that you are alone in the unknown world, that your bliss and suffering is forever shared and forever all your own.” (Dylan Thomas)

“There is poetry as soon as we realize we possess nothing.” (John Cage)

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

“Poetry is the art of creating imaginary gardens with real toads.” (Marianne Moore)

“The poem is a plank laid over a lion’s den.” (James K Baxter)

“The best words in the best order.” (Samuel Coleridge)

“Pleasance and half wonder.” (W.B. Yeats)

“Language in orbit.” (Seamus Heaney)

“A poem should not mean but be.” (Archibald Macleish)

“There’s no money in poetry, but then there’s no poetry in money, either.” (Robert Graves)

“A poem is never finished, only abandoned.” (Paul Valery)

“Poets utter great and wise things which they do not themselves understand.” (Plato)

“One man’s fiddle is another man’s violin.” (Ken Craft)



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