Are you looking for quotes about poetry?

What better way to inspire young people about poetry than to provide them with an inspirational quote to begin a lesson, or to get them thinking? Here are a few which I have collected. Your contributions would be most welcome.

A poem is a city filled with streets and sewers/ filled with saints, heroes, beggars, madmen. (Charles Bukowski, a poem is a city)

All poetry is magic. It is a spell against insensitivity, failure of imagination, ignorance and barbarism. (Charles Causley, 1990)

Poetry is not the new rock’n’roll, it was the first rock’n’roll. (A Wilson, The Poetry Book for Primary Schools)

A poem is like a shot of espresso – the fastest way to get a hit of mental and spiritual energy. (Jeanette Winterson)

Poetry is all that is worth remembering in life. (William Hazlitt)

Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words. (Edgar Allan Poe)

Poetry is the opening and closing of a door, leaving those who look through to guess about what is seen during a moment. (Carl Sandburg)

Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar. (Percy Bysshe Shelley).

Poetry is thoughts that breathe, and words that burn. (Thomas Gray)

Poetry is an echo asking a shadow to dance. (Carl Sandburg)

Poetry is like making a joke. If you get one word wrong at the end of a joke, you’ve lost the whole thing. (W S Merwin)

Poetry isn’t a profession, it’s a way of life. It’s an empty basket; you put your life into it and make something out of that. (Mary Oliver)

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Poems on the underground

Poem on the Underground
One of the poems which have been featured on London Underground.

What a great idea to display Poems on the Underground. The scheme was launched in 1986 to “make journeys more stimulating and inspiring”. Most recently, the poems have been featured inside tube trains, though I recall seeing them, billposter-sized, taking the place of advertisements behind the tracks themselves.

Organisers argue that the idea is to move away from poems being elitist and obscure. One can hardly argue with that – especially when more than 50 other cities, from New York to Shanghai – have followed the idea and displayed poetry on their public transport. (Why not every town though? Why not on trains through the United Kingdom? Why not on buses that run in provincial towns and villages?)

41sAbATNtDL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Recently, I was given a copy of Best Poems on the Underground, a selection of more than 300 of the poems chosen for public display, edited by Gerard Benson, Judith Charnaik and Cicely Herbert. It is a marvellous and varied collection, arranged alphabetically by poet. Some of the poems are familiar but many are new to me – which is a great delight.

Here’s an example. Fleur Adcock (b1934) came to England from New Zealand and encountered difficulties being understood. She reflects on this in Immigrant, writing:

I clench cold fists in my Marks and Spencer’s jacket
And secretly  test my accent once again:
St James’s Park; St James’s Park; St James’s Park.”

I had not heard of Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966) before. Her series of poems, Requiem, depict the suffering of the Russian people under Stalin, between 1935 and 1940. Her husband and son were both arrested. In a translation by Richard McKane, we hear:

I would like to name them all but they took away
the list and there’s no way of finding them.”

Imagine reading this on your morning commuter: it kind of puts things into perspective. Is it really necessary to rush to get there a couple of minutes earlier?

There is John Betjeman (1906-1984) writing about the boom of the great bell, heard whilst sitting in St Botolph Bishopsgate Churchyard; Connie Bensley (b1929) spending her way out of the recession in Shopper and, gloriously, Sebastian Barker (b1945) finding the inspiration of nature In the Heart of Hackney:

In the hear of Hackney, five miles from Kentish Town,
By Lammas Lands the reed beds are glowing rich and brown.”

I have only read the first 30 or so poems but I know there are further great riches in store.