All of us have moments in our childhood where we come alive for the first time. And we go back to those moments and think, This is when I became myself.
Being Poet Laureate made me realize I was capable of a larger voice. There is a more public utterance I can make as a poet.
Being true to yourself really means being true to all the complexities of the human spirit.
For many years, I thought a poem was a whisper overheard, not an aria heard.
For years, I had heard about the lack of interest in literature in the U.S. and I had complained about it. I failed to understand how people could fail to be moved by art.
Going to the library was the one place we got to go without asking for permission. And they let us choose what we wanted to read. It was a feeling of having a book be mine entirely.
Have you ever heard a good joke? If you've ever heard someone just right, with the right pacing, then you're already on the way to poetry. It's about using words in very precise ways and using gesture.
I believe people may have a predisposition for artistic creativity. It doesn't mean they're going to make it.
I carry a notebook with me everywhere. But that's only the first step.
I didn't know writers could be real live people, because I never knew any writers.
I have a high guilt quotient. A poem can go through as many as 50 or 60 drafts. It can take from a day to two years—or longer.
I keep the drafts of each poem in color-coded folders. I pick up the folders according to how I feel about that color that day.
I loved to read, but I always thought that the dream was too far away. The person who had written the book was a god, it wasn't a person.
I loved to write when I was a child. I wrote, but I always thought it was something that you did as a child, then you put away childish things.
I prefer to explore the most intimate moments, the smaller, crystallized details we all hinge our lives on.
I see a resurgence of interest in poetry. I am less optimistic about the prospects for the arts when it comes to federal funding.
I think children have talent and insight, but it gets beaten out of them.
I think reading Shakespeare's plays when I was young was extremely important. He had the ability to make utter strangers come alive.
I thought, after the Pulitzer, at least nothing will surprise me quite that much in my life. And another one happened. It was quite amazing.
I try to show what it is about language and music that enthralls, because I think those are the two elements of poetry.
I was appointed Poet Laureate. It came totally out of the blue because most Poet Laureates had been considerably older than I. It was not something that I even had begun to dream about!
I was apprehensive. I feared every time I talked about poetry, it would be filtered through the lens of race, sex, and age.
I write short stories, and I wrote a play.
If they don't read, if they don't love reading; if they don't find themselves compulsively reading, I don't think they're really a writer.
If we really want to be full and generous in spirit, we have no choice but to trust at some level.
In working on a poem, I love to revise. Lots of younger poets don't enjoy this, but in the process of revision I discover things.
Instead of trying to come up and pontificate on what literature is, you need to talk with children, to teachers, and make sure they get poetry in the curriculum early.
It really wasn't until I was in college when I began to write more and more, and I realized I was scheduling my entire life around my writing.
It's the combination of the intimate and the public that I find so exciting about being poet laureate.
It's unfortunate that sometimes in schools, there's this need to have things quantified and graded.
Libraries are where it all begins.
My father is a chemist, my mother was a homemaker. My parents instilled in us the feeling that learning was the most exciting thing that could happen to you, and it never ends.
My favorite poets may not be your bread and butter. I have more favorite poems than favorite poets.
One definition of eternity is that we are not alone on this planet, that there are those who've gone before and those who will come, and that there is a community of spirits.
People write me from all over the country, asking me, and sometimes even telling me, what they think a poet laureate should do. I found that immensely valuable.
Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.
Rap is only one end of a whole spectrum of verbal play and virtuosity. Rap is geared for aural pleasure.
The American Dream is a phrase we'll have to wrestle with all of our lives. It means a lot of things to different people. I think we're redefining it now.
The joy of working at something to find out what it means to me is what I grew up with.
The poetry that sustains me is when I feel that, for a minute, the clouds have parted and I've seen ecstasy or something.
The sound of the mandolin is a very curious sound because it's cheerful and melancholy at the same time, and I think it comes from that shadow string, the double strings.
There are distinct duties of a poet laureate. I plan a reading series at the Library of Congress and advise the librarian. The rest is how I want to promote poetry.
There are times in life when, instead of complaining, you do something about your complaints.
To write for PC reasons, because you think you ought to be dealing with this subject, is never going to yield anything that is really going to matter to anyone else. It has to matter to you.
Under adversity, under oppression, the words begin to fail, the easy words begin to fail. In order to convey things accurately, the human being is almost forced to find the most precise words possible, which is a precondition for literature.
What is ironic is that Allen Ginsberg's importance was in its twilight for so many years that it took his death to bring it to the front page. He electrified an entire world!
What writing does is to reveal.
When we are touched by something it's as if we're being brushed by an angel's wings.
Without imagination we can go nowhere. And imagination is not restricted to the arts. Every scientist I have met who has been a success has had to imagine.
You have to imagine it possible before you can see something. You can have the evidence right in front of you, but if you can't imagine something that has never existed before, it's impossible.
Memorable Quotations: African-American Writers
African-American Writers (Kindle Book)
American Women Writers
Memorable Quotations: American Women Writers of the Past
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Memorable Quotations: Poets (A - C)
Memorable Quotations: Poets (D - F)
Memorable Quotations: Poets (G - K)
Memorable Quotations: Poets (L - N)
Memorable Quotations: Poets (O - R)
Memorable Quotations: Poets (S - Z)
Memorable Quotations: Poets of the Past (Kindle Book)
Memorable Quotations: Women Poets
Women Poets of the Past (Kindle Book)
Memorable Quotations: Women Pulitzer Prize Winners