Writers love to quote other writers about writing, particularly about the whys and hows of it — it’s kind of a thing. Joy Williams, at a symposium at Connecticut College with Tobias Wolff and Galway Kinnell years ago, even had a whole Rolodex with her, an actual Rolodex she brought with her to the podium so she could correctly quote other people when answering questions after the reading.
I’m no different of course. Some favorites:
I could no more define poetry than a terrier can define a rat.
It’s silly to suggest the writing of poetry as something ethereal, a sort of soul-crashing emotional experience that wrings you. I have no fancy ideas about poetry. It doesn’t come to you on the wings of a dove. It’s something you work hard at.
A poem is about something the way a cat is about a house.
– Allen Grossman (I’ve seen it as “art is about” too.)
[Good poetry should have meaning] As a chair possesses meaning. Not as furniture, but as a place to sit down.
Language can do what it can’t say.
You have to be silly to write poems at all.
Poetry, instead of being reserved for a special time of day, goes on continuously.
– James Dickey (Dickey was talking about himself there, but I like it as an overarching statement too.)