So when people say that poetry is a luxury, or an option, or for the educated middle classes, or that it shouldn’t be read at school because it is irrelevant, or any of the strange and stupid things that are said about poetry and its place in our lives, I suspect that the people doing the saying have had things pretty easy. A tough life needs a tough language—and that is what poetry is. That is what literature offers—a language powerful enough to say how it is.
It isn’t a hiding place. It is a finding place.
—Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
"To believe that any appreciation implies a unified theory of value in art, to believe that a critic must develop one, is to commit at least on logical fallacy: it is to assume that just because “poem” and “poetry” refer to a relatively stable, relatively well-defined class of things, we must appreciate or deprecate all such things for the same reason, must ask them to serve the same goals. In fact, I go to Pope for this, to Keats for that, to Dickinson for a third thing, and would not willingly part with any of the three. The same holds for contemporary poetry: I do not seek ingenious compression and riddling wit from Les Murray, nor from Bernadette Mayer; I do not look for extended, shamanic engagements with the raw forces of the id from Kay Ryan. I do not look for deft comfort amid centuries-old techniques when I read Denise Riley, nor do I look for intellectually ambitious embodiments of poststructuralist feminism in Richard Wilbur. Yet all these desiderata (comic treatments, oneiric reenvisionings, and so on) are to be had in some of the poets just named. The map of poetry in English, in this respect, resembles the map of the New York City subway: many trains run to many destinations, and some routes overlap for much of their lengths, but not all trains run at all times."
— Stephen Burt, Close Calls with Nonsense: Reading New Poetry
"The poem is an effort to express a knowledge imperfectly felt, to articulate relationships not quite seen, to make or discover some pattern in the world. It is a conflict with disorder."
— Richard Wilbur
"But I’ve always loved the stories about Shelley going around Oxford peering into baby carriages, and how he once said to a woman carrying a baby, “Madame, can your baby tell us anything of pre-existence?"
— Elizabeth Bishop, letter to Robert Lowell 30/6/48
"It’s a lifelong task for an artist, and for us critics as well, to stay open to the possibility of being moved."
— Dana Stevens, Slate, “The Movie Club,” 9 January 2010
"The place of reading is a kind of yonder world, a place that is neither here nor there but made up of the bits and pieces of experience in every sense, both real and fictional, two categories that become harder to separate the more you think of them."
— Siri Hustvedt, from “Yonder,” Yonder: Essays
"When Odysseus speaks of the measureless sea and the boundless earth, it is all so true and human, so inwardly and closely felt, and so mysterious. What use is it if I, like any schoolboy, can now parrot that the earth is round?"
— Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther, translated by Michael Hulse
"Having published poems markedly different in the same year, and finding myself a housemate if not bedfellow to poets of a different stripe—poets who crave or despise closure, who depend on or deny the ability of language to convey any or explicit meaning—I want to say, more than anything, that there is no type of poem we need more than another. For poets, this back section of The Best American Poetry is one of the most interesting spaces in American letters. We’re asked to talk about poems that will soon be praised or scorned based largely on their inclusion in this volume. I thought, in this context, I might declare where I stand. So: I enjoy narrative and surreal poems, lyric poems and prose poems. The elliptical poets, of all the geometrically named poets, have the coolest images and the most assistant professorships. The objectivists—are they still out there? I hope so. George Oppen, we miss you. As someone not me says, “It’s all good.” I think what I really wanted to say is let’s stop picking on the Language Poets. Ron Silliman, you silly man, let’s do the cheer together: give me an L, and A, etcetera. What’s that spell? Laetcetera."
— Bob Hicok, The Best American Poetry 2008