The great function of poetry is
to give back to us the
situations of our dreams.

Gaston Bacheland


That's the main business of the poem!--to see if you can't make up a language that sets all your selves talking at once--all of them being fair to each other.

Richard Wilbur

Loneliness is necessary for pure poetry.  When someone intrudes into the poet's life (and any sudden personal contact, whether in the bed or in the heart, is an intrusion) the poet loses his or her balance for a moment, slips into being what he or she is, uses his or her poetry as one would use money or sympathy.  The person who writes the poetry emerges, tentatively, like a hermit crab from a conch shell.  The poet, for that instant, ceases to be a dead person.

Jack Spicer

This, I thought, is how great visionaries and poets see everything--as if for the first time.  Each morning they see a new world before their eyes; they do not really see it, they create it.

Nikos Kazantzakis

Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry.

W.B. Yeats

Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.

Leonardo da Vinci


Poetry is just the evidence of life.  If your
life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.

Leonard Cohen


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Everywhere I go, I find a poet has been there before me.

Sigmund Freud


Poetry is eternal graffiti written in the heart of everyone.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Americus, Book I


One day while studying a Yeats poem I decided to write poetry the rest of
my life.  I recognized that a single short poem has room for history, music,
psychology, religious thought, mood, occult speculation, character, and events
of one's own life.  I still feel surprised that such various substances can find
shelter and nourishment in a poem.  A poem in fact may be a sort of nourishing
liquid, such as one uses to keep an amoeba alive.  If prepared right, a poem
can keep an image or a thought or insights on history or the psyche alive for
years, as well as our desires and airy impulses.

Robert Bly

A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong,
a homesickness, a lovesickness.

Robert Frost

If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can
warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top
of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are
the only ways I know it. Is there any other way?

Emily Dickinson
Selected Letters

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

Robert Frost

It was at that age
that poetry came in search of me.

Pablo Neruda
Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair

Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.

T.S. Eliot

Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by reason.



Poetry, she thought, wasn't written to be analyzed; it was meant
to inspire without reason, to touch without understanding.

Nicholas Sparks
The Notebook

Whereas story is processed in the mind in a straightforward manner,
poetry bypasses rational thought and goes straight to the limbic system and
lights it up like a brushfire. It's the crack cocaine of the literary world.

Jasper Fforde
First Among Sequels


With me poetry has not been a purpose, but a passion.

Edgar Allan Poe


Always learn poems by heart. They have to become the marrow in
your bones. Like fluoride in the water, they'll make your
soul impervious to the world's soft decay.

Janet Fitch
White Oleander

A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same
once a good poem has been added to it. A good poem helps to
change the shape of the universe, helps to extend everyone's
knowledge of ourselves and the world around us.

Dylan Thomas


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

Gustave Flaubert


A poet's work . . . to name the unnamable, to point at frauds, to take
sides, start arguments, shape the world and stop it from going to sleep.

Salman Rushdie

Poetry puts starch in your backbone so you can
stand, so you can compose your life.

Maya Angelou

The poetry of the earth is never dead.

John Keats

If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell
yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for
to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place.

Rainer Maria Rilke
Letters to a Young Poet


I have often imagined that if I were in solitary confinement for an indefinite
time and knew that no one would ever read what I wrote, I would still write
poetry, but I would not write novels.  Why?  Perhaps because the poem is
primarily a dialogue with the self and the novel a dialogue with others.  They
come from entirely different modes of being.  I suppose I have written novels
to find out what I thought about something and poems
to find out what I felt about something.

May Sarton
Journal of a Solitude


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The point of diving in a lake is not immediately to swim to the shore,
but to be in the lake. To luxuriate in the sensation of water.  You do
not work the lake out; it is an experience beyond thought.
Poetry soothes and emboldens the soul to accept mystery.

John Keats

Working with children on the writing of poetry has led me to ponder the
ways that most of us become exiled from the certainties of childhood;
how it is that the things we most treasure when we're young are exactly
those things we come to spurn as teenagers and young adults.  Very small
children are often conscious of God, for example, in ways that adults
seldom are.  They sing to God, they talk to God, they recognize divine
presence in the world around them. . . . Yet these budding theologians
often despise church by the time they're in eighth grade.

In a similar way, the children who un-selfconsciously make up songs and
poems when they're young--I once observed a three-year-old singing
a passionate ode to the colorful vegetables in a supermarket--quickly
come to regard poetry as meaningless and irrelevant. . . . I wonder if
children don't begin to reject both poetry and religion for similar
reasons, because the way both are taught takes the life out of them.
If we teach children when they're young to reject their epiphanies,
then it's no wonder that we end up with so many adults
who are poetically and theologically illiterate.

Kathleen Norris
The Cloister Walk


Even when poetry has a meaning, as it usually has, it may
be inadvisable to draw it out. . . . Perfect understanding
will sometimes always extinguish pleasure.

A.E. Housman


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We rely upon the poets, the philosophers, and the playwrights to
articulate what most of us can only feel, in joy or sorrow.  They
illuminate the thoughts for which we only grope; they give us the
strength and balm we cannot find in ourselves.  Whenever I feel
my courage wavering I rush to them.  They give me the wisdom
of acceptance, the will and resilience to push on.

Helen Hayes

What a mystery Auden is!  He has made a new kind of poetry, far
more original than even Eliot, I think, a kind of poetry based on the
antithesis of the "poetic" as we used to know it, never inflated, ironic,
antiromantic, witty.  And all of this could stem from Byron, but
Auden has his own vision.  "Lay your sleeping head, my love / Human
on my faithless arm"--I can remember how the lines enraged me
when I first read them.  But I was wrong.

May Sarton
Journal of a Solitude


Poetry is as necessary to comprehension as science.

Henry Beston

That's the way I write a poem--getting a small piece of it
in my hands and pulling it out and not knowing whether it
is a man or a woman.  I have never started a poem yet
whose ending I knew.  Writing a poem is discovering.

Robert Frost

All poetry is an ordered voice, one which tries to tell you about a
vision in the unvisionary language of farm, city, and love.  Writing
is like this--you dredge for the poem's meaning the way police
dredge for a body.  They think it is down there under the black
water, they work the grappling hooks back and forth.  But maybe
it's up in the hills under the leaves or in a ditch somewhere.  Maybe
it's never found.  But what you find, whatever you find, is always
only part of the missing, and writing is the way the poet finds out
what it is he or she found.

Paul Engle


The business of the poet is to examine, not the individual, but the species,
to remark general properties and large appearances; the poet
does not number the streaks of the tulip.

Samuel Johnson



Yes, life can be mysterious and confusing--but there's much of life that's actually rather dependable and reliable.  Some principles apply to life in so many different contexts that they can truly be called universal--and learning what they are and how to approach them and use them can teach us some of the most important lessons that we've ever learned.
My doctorate is in Teaching and Learning.  I use it a lot when I teach at school, but I also do my best to apply what I've learned to the life I'm living, and to observe how others live their lives.  What makes them happy or unhappy, stressed or peaceful, selfish or generous, compassionate or arrogant?  In this book, I've done my best to pass on to you what I've learned from people in my life, writers whose works I've read, and stories that I've heard.  Perhaps these principles can be a positive part of your life, too!
Universal Principles of Living Life Fully.  Awareness of these principles can explain a lot and take much of the frustration out of the lives we lead.



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