a poet who didn’t know it

I used to think I couldn’t write poetry. To me, poetry has always meant rhythm and rhyme (versus free verse), and I didn’t think I had it in me. As I have continued to write more and more, however, I have found that, maybe, I was wrong.

Overall, Shift is not a blog about poetry. It’s a blog about travel and ideas and perspective. I still have much to share, and I am loving the conversations arising out of posts such as “Success, or Something Like It” and “Let There Be Light.” But, as my tagline aptly states, the only thing constant is change, and that’s true for writers, too. We all go through phases, and I hope readers don’t mind that I am now also sharing some of my poetry.

Recently, I created a “Poetry” section for my menu to make locating my poetry a bit easier. In doing so, I remembered one of my favorite quotes from one of my literature classes in college. This led me to looking up more quotes on poetry, and, voilà, this post appeared.

Can you guess which quote is my favorite? Which is yours?



“Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.”

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 – 1822)



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

William Wordsworth (1770 – 1850)



“Well, write poetry, for God’s sake, it’s the only thing that matters.”

– e. e. cummings (1894 – 1962)



“Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.”

– G.K. Chesterton (1874 – 1936)



“I have never started a poem yet whose end I knew. Writing a poem is discovering.”

“A poem begins with a lump in the throat.”

– Robert Frost (1874 – 1963)



“At the touch of love everyone becomes a poet.”

– Plato (427 – 347 B.C.)

robert graves


“A perfect poem is impossible. Once it had been written, the world would end.”

— Robert Graves (1895 – 1985)



“Poetry is what happens when nothing else can.”

Charles Bukowski (1920 – 1994)



“Poetry fettered fetters the human race.”

William Blake (1757 – 1827)

Emily Dickinson


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

Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886)



“Poetry should surprise by a fine excess and not by singularity—it should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a remembrance.”

John Keats (1795 – 1821)



“Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words.”

Edgar Allen Poe (1809 – 1849)



“Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary.”

– Kahlil Gibran (1883 – 1931)



“Poetry is the universal language which the heart holds with nature and itself.”

William Hazlitt (1778 – 1830)



“Poetry might be defined as the clear expression of mixed feelings.”

W.H. Auden (1907 – 1973)



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

Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519)



“Always be a poet, even in prose.”

Charles Baudelaire (1821 – 1867)

Note: I would also like to take this opportunity to thank James Spencer at “Czeching Out,” Lee Tyler at “The Point of Quill,” Tiffany Whitney at “Sincerely, Whitney,” Allwin Bright at “Allwin Bright Writes,” and James at “Digging History” for honoring me with recent awards. I have updated my “recognition” page accordingly. You guys are awesome!
Another note for people like Walter Bright: I updated my portfolio section with links to my recent articles. Just fyi. They’re really not exciting!

Images: Google

43 thoughts

  1. Leonardo da Vinci’s quote would be an excellent way to introduce a painting or poetry workshop. In fact, all your quotes would be a great way to start an introductory course in poetry!

  2. NIce.
    Wordsworth is my favourite poet.
    Gibran is my favourite philosopher.
    And Keats is my favourite “something for which I have no words”… and his quote comes out tops for me :)

    • Wonderful! I need to read more of the “great poets,” honestly… (I need to read more of all genres, actually.) I really like Keats’ quote, too, and I love Wordsworth.

      • Wordsworth. :)
        My old worn-out copy of Penguin Popular Poetry’s “Selected Poems of William Wordsworth” is sitting here on the table beside my fingers as I type this :)
        He’s my absolute favourite. Some years ago, my wife and I holidayed in the Lake District, where we visited Rydal Mount and Grasmere and got to see Dove Cottage and Wordsworth’s grave.
        It was a deeply moving holiday for us, and I captured the intuitions in a book of poems I published after that.

        And a few years even before then, we visited the Protestant Cemetary in Rome, where we saw the graves of Keats (“Here lies one whose name was write in water”), and Shelley and Severn.
        When I saw Keats grave, knowing the story of his life, it brought tears to my eyes. But there’s such poetic harmony in the fact that Shelley and Keats, such close friends in life (Shelley wrote his classic “Adonais” in memory of Keats when Keats died; and when Shelley drowned in a storm at sea a year later, a copy of Keats’ poems was found in his pocket) should be buried in the same cemetary.

        If you haven’t (although I’m sure you have :) ), you should read into and about the 5 Romantics (Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, Keats).
        Nothing tops them.

  3. Real poetry
    is art at its purest sense.
    It is never a commodity
    but a breath of eternity.
    Congrats with garnering the awards, well-deserved!

    • I see… I looked it up. That’s your quote! Very good. Haha. And thanks on the congratulations. I don’t know if I deserve them or not, but they’re there.

  4. Lots of choices (too many) to attempt which is your favorite; nevertheless, my shot-in-the-dark is Robert Graves? But I know you like them all or else you wouldn’t have bothered to post them, right? ;)

    My favorite(s) is/are: #1 – Robert Frost followed by John Keats. But neither is my all time favorite.

    • *Do* you have an all-time favorite? I like both of the quotes you mentioned, too, and you’re very right that I like all of these or else would not have posted them… To be honest, my challenge about which is my favorite may not have been fair. If I have a favorite, it is biased by past experience.

      I *do* like the Graves quote—very much. I think it is very true. I also LOVE the first quote by Frost, Bukowski, and Baudelaire. But my favorite, again, because of memory’s sake, is number one—Shelley. There is something musical in “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” It also acknowledges poetry’s power, which, I feel, the world would usually rather write off.

    • Thank you, Tushar. I’m glad you liked it! I like the quote by cummings, too. It is difficult for me to choose a favorite. I love the quotes by Frost, Bukowski, and Baudelaire very much. But the first one, by Shelley, is probably my favorite because I think it is beautiful and recognizes the importance of poetry, even if the world does not. :)

  5. Okay then – today’s challenge is “Free Verse” – Robert Frost remarked that writing free verse was like “playing tennis without a net.” – yet I love Ezra Pound (musical) and Walt Whitman!

    • You mean I have to write a poem in free verse? Ahhh! I saw that quote about playing tennis with the net down but decided not to use it… There are a lot of good quotes out there—too many for a single post!

      • Oh wow! The quote by Shelley was, by far, my least favorite. Comparing poets to legislators would be like comparing a diplomat to a senator. It should never be done. Poetry contains too much of the power to persuade to ever need to legislate.
        I could see poetry validating, delegating, possibly barricading, and certainly mediating… but never legislating.

        ;) but that’s just me

  6. i’m guessing #2 and #11 as your fav quote? too bad i’m not into poetry and do not know much about the authors but hey, this is a personal blog and you can write as much poetry as you want. Looking forward to your work :)

    • Not everyone’s into poetry, and that’s okay! I’m not, really, either. I enjoyed studying it in college, but certainly don’t read a lot of it now and, like I said, never really thought I could write it. I’m glad you don’t mind reading my amateurish work, though. :P My favorite is actually the first one by Shelley, but I really do love them all.

      • i like reading poetry, just that i don’t know much about the authors and never really have the chance to be exposed to them. i’ll be glad to be iniated by your work :)

      • I only know a little about these authors because I studied them in school, Sam, and already I have forgotten almost everything I learned! So we’re in the same boat together. :)

    • I really like the Da Vinci quote, too. I was delighted when I found it. Glad you like my poetry. I really ought to read more of it myself… Then I’ll have a better idea of how much I do or do not suck! lol

  7. You picked good ones ’cause I kept trying to think which I liked best. I loved the Auden quote. I never know exactly how I feel and like that someone else understands.

    • I really, really liked the Auden one, too, Terri! Glad you did. I had a hard time picking a favorite as well. Number one is actually my favorite, but that’s partly because I learned it in one of my favorite classes in college. I also think it is lyrical and acknowledges the importance of poetry in a world that, largely, thinks it could do without.

    • Glad to hear it! You know, I didn’t study Khalil Gibran much in school. It’s time I learned more about him! Thank you for the inspiration. :)

  8. My choice is Charles Bukowski “Poetry is what happens when nothing else can.” There is something very moving about someone who would share a piece of their soul with the rest of us, despite living his life mostly in the gutter. And I think it’s because I can relate to Bukowski more than the others. I have always found it fascinating that such a brash and tortured soul could write such beautiful and moving poems of love, life, and death. He may have seemed common but was anything but; as I believe we are ALL very special in our own way.

    I am not a big poetry fan per se either, but I do love how a poem can take something so complex and make is beautifully simple (like love & death). Steve Jobs once said: “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

    I loved this post as I have all your others…keep moving mountains and touching hearts Jess!!!

    • Thank you so much, Shaun! I am moved by your comment! Your thoughts on Bukowski— a tortured soul who wrote such beautiful works—remind me, too, of Van Gogh. Now *there* was a tortured soul…

      I know what you mean about poetry’s ability to make the complex simple, and vice versa. In addition, I love the way poems can have multiple meanings and mean different things to different people. We assign things meaning based on our own experiences… The quote by Steve Jobs is great—thanks for sharing!—and I’ll attest that what he said is definitely applicable to writing. Anyone can spout off eloquent virtuosos that *sound* nice but have little true meaning, or, at the very least, are hard to follow. With the best writing, every word counts.

      Thanks again for reading and commenting! :)

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