famous poets

Poets on Poetry: 15 Quotes on Writing Poems and Craft

If you are like me, you love a good quote about writing from your favorite writer. I love learning from their experiences, writing their words on post-it notes and sticking them all over my writing space. We can learn so much about the craft of writing poetry from the greats who came before us and the writers who are currently publishing work and lining our bookshelves with their poetry collections.


Here are 15 quotes about poetry, its impact, and the craft of writing by acclaimed and famous poets who we all know and love. Get your post-it notes ready. 



Erica Jong 


“What makes you a poet is a gift for language, an ability to see into the heart of things, and an ability to deal with important unconscious material. When all these things come together, you’re a poet. But there isn’t one little gimmick that makes you a poet. There isn’t any formula for it.” 



Anne Sexton


“One of my secret instructions to myself as a poet is: “Whatever you do, don’t be boring.”



Emily Dickinson 


“If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” 



Sylvia Plath


“Poetry, I feel, is a tyrannical discipline. You’ve got to go so far so fast in such a small space; you’ve got to burn away all the peripherals.” 



Mary Oliver


“Poetry is one of the ancient arts, and it begins as did all the fine arts, within the original wilderness of the earth.”



Margaret Atwood


“The genesis of a poem for me is usually a cluster of words. The only good metaphor I can think of is a scientific one: dipping a thread into a supersaturated solution to induce crystal formation. I don’t think I solve problems in my poetry; I think I uncover the problems.”



Joy Harjo


“When I began to listen to poetry, it’s when I began to listen to the stones, and I began to listen to what the clouds had to say, and I began to listen to others. And I think, most importantly for all of us, then you begin to learn to listen to the soul, the soul of yourself in here, which is also the soul of everyone else.” 



Clarissa Pinkola Estes


“There’s a reason poets often say, ‘Poetry saved my life,’ for often the blank page is the only one listening to the soul’s suffering, the only one registering the story completely, the only one receiving all softly and without condemnation.”



Salvatore Quasimodo


“Poetry … is the revelation of a feeling that the poet believes to be interior and personal which the reader recognizes as his own.” — Salvatore Quasimodo, from a speech in New York, quoted in The New York Times.  



Edgar Allan Poe


“I would define … the Poetry of words as The Rhythmical Creation of Beauty.” 



William Wordsworth


“Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity.” — from “Preface to Lyrical Ballads.” 



Percy Bysshe Shelley


“Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar.”



Carl Sandburg


“Poetry is the journal of the sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air. Poetry is a search for syllables to shoot at the barriers of the unknown and the unknowable. Poetry is a phantom script telling how rainbows are made and why they go away.”


Allen Ginsberg

“Poetry is not an expression of the party line. It’s that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public, that’s what the poet does.” 



Dylan Thomas


“Poetry is what in a poem makes you laugh, cry, prickle, be silent, makes your toenails 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.”