Wednesday Words: In Other’s Words

15 Dec

9:42 am, Wednesday, 15 November, 2010 – Atlanta

I have been doping out what to do for the next couple of weeks while we are all busy being part of this holiday season. I thought today I would give you poetry in others’ words and set you a challenge. I suspect many of us collect writing on poetry by other writers. I, as a teacher, collected quotes to put up in the classroom to, hopefully, make my students look at poetry differently. I collected the ones that thrilled me with their words, the definitions that are as poetical as the writers’ poetry. But I have never put into words my definition of poetry.

Poetry arrived/ in search of me. I don’t know, I don’t know where/ it came from, from winter or a river./ I don’t know how or when… Pablo Neruda, “Poetry Arrived”.

The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means, and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again, since it is life…William Faulkner. Faulkner may have written prose, but this is one of the best definitions of writing I have come across and works for poetry.

Escher "Drawing Hands" Wikipedia

Painting is silent poetry, poetry is eloquent painting. Simonides

Poetry is the language in which man explores his own amazement.  Christopher Fry

Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.  T.S. Eliot, Dante, 1920

A poem is true if it hangs together.  Information points to something else.  A poem points to nothing but itself. E.M. Forster, Two Cheers for Democracy, 1951

Happiness is sharing a bowl of cherries and a book of poetry with a shade tree.  He doesn’t eat much and doesn’t read much, but listens well and is a most gracious host.  Astrid Alauda

And I love this one by Hortense Callisher: The words! I collected them in all shapes and sizes and hung them like bangles in my mind.

And, maybe my favourite of all is a poem by Roland Jooris, translated from the Dutch by Peter Nijmeijer:


Taking away,
writing is
taking away,

so that
all I leave
is a flowerpot
standing brick red
on the windowsill
and watch twilight
fill in a corner
of the room
with pencil.



The challenge: freewrite your thoughts on, What is poetry? Then, come up with a definition that works for you, or, a poem. Then share in comments or link to your post. You might even write a post on the subject.

Tomorrow, when I planned to engage in a discourse on the topic: The poet is never the speaker, will become Friday instead. Having reached my conclusion that I need to pull back until after the holidays, I don’t want to engage in a topic that will require thinking and engagement, until I have your attention [and mine]. I would love to get a discussion going on the topic, so be thinking about it.

Friday I will be flying cross-country to my mom’s in California, so may, or may not, get to my blog. Therefore, I will do my usual Friday Freeforall tomorrow. See you then.

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Posted by on 15/12/2010 in exercises, poetry, writing


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