April is National Poetry Month. On this occasion, take words about poetry from a famous poet, or anyone else you deem fitting, and turn them into a quatrain (four-line poem). Below are four examples from poet Roy E. Peterson. Post your quatrain in the comments section below.


Poetry is synthesis
Of powerful emotion,
Remembered in tranquility;
Spontaneous commotion.

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


Poetry surprises readers
With their own highest thought
And strikes like their remembering
Something once forgot.

“Poetry should surprise by a fine excess … it should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a remembrance.” — John Keats, from On Axioms and the Surprise of Poetry.


Poetry unveils the beauty
Hidden in the world.
Common objects now look strange
When beauty is unfurled.

“Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar.” — Percy Bysshe Shelley, from A Defence of Poetry and Other Essays.


Every word has meaning.
Each adjective a place.
Never dull the image with
Superfluous words of grace.

“Use no superfluous word, no adjective, which does not reveal something. Don’t use such an expression as ‘dim land of peace.’ It dulls the image. It mixes an abstraction with the concrete. It comes from the writer’s not realizing that the natural object is always the adequate symbol. Go in fear of abstractions.” — Ezra Pound 



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78 Responses

  1. Joseph S. Salemi

    Poems are mere constructions formed of word
    Just like the passage of a darting bird
    That flies before your gaze up in the sky
    Lovely and swift, but empty as a surd.

    “Poetry makes nothing happen.” –W.H. Auden

    • David B. Gosselin

      I think Dante and Homer would disagree with Auden’s description of poetry, as would many classical poets like Shakespeare and Shelley. These poets were not just trying to fashion words in nice combinations, they understood poetry to serve a purpose. Indeed, Homer’s epics are in many ways the transmission of Greek history in dramatic form.

      For a long time it was argued that Homer’s epics were just made up, that no such city of Troy existed i.e. they were just “mere constructions formed of word.” It was Heinrich Schliemann who was convinced that these epics were not just stories, that they were something much more. And so he decided to become a business man to accumulate enough wealth, and then using the descriptions from Homer’s epics, he was able to actually locate the site where the battle of Troy had to have occurred. So he bought up the land and excavated it, and guess what he found?

      He actually found the lost city of Troy!

      He understood that Homer was doing something much more profound than just trying to entertain his audiences. Homer was actually also educating a citizenry, imparting history, knowledge of astronomy, morals, tradition, ideas. And it was this conviction on the part of Schliemann that allowed him to actually discover what all the “experts” said did not exist and was just a fable.

      In this light, Auden’s description of poetry is quite antithetical to the classical idea of poetry, which goes all the way back to ancient Greece. Auden’s description epitomizes the outlook of Modernist poetry, as opposed to classical poetry.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Oh good grief, Gosselin! Do you still think, after several centuries of philological studies, that the Homeric texts were written by a single author named Homer?

        For quite some time now it has been established that the Homeric texts that we possess are simply compilations and editions (from circa 800 to 700 B.C.) of what were originally long oral narratives passed down by bards in recitals. The meter, the grammar, the vocabulary, the omission of the “wau” consonant (digamma) in initial position — all of this and more show that the name “Homer” is simply a convenient figurehead device for a very ancient collection of fictive war lays related to a conflict at Wilusa (called Ilium or “Troy” later on).

        And yes, we all know that Schliemann discovered the city of Troy, and that it was destroyed in a major battle. Do you actually think that this proves the Iliad is “historical” in any meaningful sense?

        Face facts! The bare skeleton of a mistily remembered story about a major war at Ilium was nothing but the armature around which ancient Greek bards wove their fictive narrative concerning the characters Agamemnon, Achilleus, Helen, Paris, Hektor, and all the rest. The Iliad and the Odyssey are both products of fictive mimesis, not of historical remembrance.

        Do these ancient epics tell some truths to us? Sure. But that wasn’t their primary purpose. Their main purpose was to express a heroic and aristocratic image of what made a good king, a brave warrior, a faithful wife, and the loyalty of men in combat.

        Nothing that your two radical heroes, Sheets and Kelly, would support.

  2. Mike Bryant

    Some poets live their poetry
    And others live a poem.
    Still other poets, notably,
    Will never

    “A poem is never finished, only abandoned.” —Paul Valéry

  3. Mike Bryant

    I think that I shall never see
    A poem lovely as a tree.
    Poems are made by fools like me,
    But only God can make a tree.

    “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.” —T. S. Eliot

    • James A. Tweedie

      I just noticed that we chose the same quote. It would appear that our muses are in collaboration.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Mike, you are a mature poet. Next time, steal something worth stealing. Joyce Kilmer is just a rest-stop on the Garden State Parkway

      • Mike Bryant

        C.B. Most people don’t know this, but Joyce identified as a man. I think he would have gotten better if he hadn’t died.

      • C.B. Anderson

        We are all better, Mike, if we remain alive. I say this as one man to another.

    • Norma Okun

      T.S. Elliot described exactly what his poetry was. He was a fool that saw the world as a placed to be cleaned up. But he was right about only God can make a tree. I like what you wrote Mike Bryant

  4. Joseph S. Salemi

    We new guys don’t need meter. Why the hell
    Should we write in iambic fives? I smell
    A stench when reading sonnets, and I hate
    Ballades, dizains, and all that boiler-plate!

    “We as loose, linguistically disassociated , yawping speakers of a new language, are privileged to sense and so to seek to discover that possible thing which is disturbing the metrical table of values.”

    –William Carlos Williams, “The Poem as a Field of Action” (1948)

    • Norma Okun

      You totally misunderstood what Williams wrote. “To seek to discover that possible thing”
      I think what Williams meant was described in this poem
      “Within Debris there is symmetry” by Eli Siegel 1902-1978

  5. Margaret Coats

    Grandeur and graceful expression,
    Power to touch potent passion,
    Artistry downplaying metrics
    Structure Longinus’ poetics.

    Five desirable traits from his “On the Sublime”

  6. Rohini Sunderam

    A poem as a piece of ice?
    But ice itself will not suffice.
    Frost says that it must on a stove
    Melt with the heat of its own love.

    “Like a piece of ice on a hot stove, the poem must ride on its own melting.”
    Robert Frost

  7. Joseph S. Salemi

    Grab your notebook, flop down on a couch —
    Think of stuff that makes your soul cry “Ouch!”
    Burble out a few words (skip the grammar),
    Arrange the fragments in aphasic stammer.

    “I have a new method of poetry. All you got to do is look over your notebooks… or lay down on a couch, and think of anything that comes into your head, especially the miseries… then arrange in lines of two, three, or four words each, don’t bother with the sentences, in sections of two, three, or four lines each.”

    –Allen Ginsberg, Letter to Jack Kerouac (1952)

    • Cynthia Erlandson

      As a fan of neither Ginsberg nor Kerouac, I love this one! Thank you!

  8. Julian D. Woodruff

    These are all so good there’s no point my cluttering the landscape with more.
    I can’t wait to hear from Ms Bryant & Mr. Anderson.

  9. James A. Tweedie

    Immature poets imitate
    To gain broad appeal.
    But as a nod to what is great
    Mature poets steal.

    “Immature poets imitate;
    Mature poets steal.” T.S. Eliot

  10. Joseph S. Salemi

    Keep me clear of arguments and preaching —
    I don’t need the poetry of teaching.
    I loathe all verse of questioning conjectures,
    Just as I loathe cerebral female lectures.

    “The poetry I regard as least is such stuff as that of Robert Browning and Matthew Arnold, which argues and illuminates. I dislike poetry of intellectual content as much as I dislike women of intellectual content — and for the same reason.”

    –H.L. Mencken, “Dichtung und Wahrheit”

  11. Anna J. Arredondo

    When our quarrel with another burns,
    The rhetoric and harsh philippic flows,
    But when we find our quarrel inward turns,
    We soften up, and poetry compose.

    “We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry.” — William Butler Yeats

  12. Joseph S. Salemi

    We poets make the rules, and you obey ’em,
    Or else we’ll give you guillotines and mayhem.
    We’re the guards, the sentinels, the warders —
    So just shut up and carry out our orders.

    “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.”

    –Percy Bysshe Shelley, “A Defence of Poetry” (1821)

    • David B. Gosselin

      Just as The Society thought they should put a disclaimer about the Edgar Poe description of religion below, I think a similar disclaimer is warranted for this Shelley reference, since it completely mischaracterizes, and essentially slanders one of the leading classical poets of the 19th century.

      I think anyone who reads the whole “Defense of Poetry” essay will be able to see why the above characterization is very misleading. It seeks to treat Shelley’s ideas about the function and purpose of poetry as some sort of literal prescription, rather than an epistemological and philosophical point about the nature and function of poetry.

      It reminds me of those professors who think they understand Plato and then proceed to take sound bites from Plato’s dialogues and offer some literal interpretation. They fail every time, because their method is wrong.

      Socrates famously said the philosopher is always concerned with dying, and thinking about dying, but does that mean Socrates was saying the philosopher is someone who is actually suicidal and wants to literally die? If so, then based on this literal interpretation, the philosopher should just jump off a bridge. Clearly, Socrates was making a much more nuanced and philosophical point–one definitely worth investigating.

      The same goes for Shelley’s idea of poets as legislators.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        The difference is that the Poe quote from J.A. Joyce was bogus, while the quote from Shelley is real.

        Of course, Gosselin tries to elide this fact via the typical Schiller-Institute escape valve: “He may have said it, but its meaning is symbolic and imaginative, and must be understood in the gaseous manner of high gnostic interpretation that we Platonists know to be proper!”

        Also, Gosselin seems to be completely devoid of a sense of humor. Doesn’t he recognize that an element of facetiousness is a part of this whole exercise here?

        As a matter of plain fact, Shelley (like all left-liberals) would have LOVED to remake the world in his own revolutionary image. People like that are dangerous. Just like Lyndon LaRouche.

      • David Bellemare Gosselin

        Dear Joseph,

        I am no partisan, neither a Schiller Institute nor Larouchepac partisan. That’s the only reason that I stick to making solid arguments about the subject at hand rather than appealing to this or that group, whether the SCP or Schiller Institute or any other outlet. My arguments in defence of the classical tradition above are just that, defences of the classical tradition—a historically specific tradition—which you have expressly attacked.

        I’m not calling you a liar or saying that you are dishonest with some ulterior motive, which is essentially what you are saying about me, which is unfortunate.

        The historical context for the meaning of classical poetry was just traced out above and nothing you said refutes that.

        Accusations of political partisanship and “red tagging” may be an easy way to shut down discussion and avoid any nuanced approach, just like calling someone a “Russian agent,” but the point is simple: the arguments you are making about Shelley, Keats and Schiller are those of a Modernist and Formalist poet, which have nothing to do with classical poetry.

        You say it’s just about “Good” or “Bad” poetry, but guess what: if you ask people what they think constitutes good or bad poetry, you will find infinite variation. Different people have different ideas of good and bad poetry, VERY different.

        Understanding the source and genesis of different poetic ideas, concepts and literary theories is crucial for situating oneself within his/her own age. The ideas people have didn’t just fall out of the sky, that have historical, linguistic and cultural roots. You can’t just pave over that with good vs. bad…

        A Modernist reading of Keats or Shelley is basically a “close reading,” which is the imposition of a specific world view onto Keats and Shelley’s poetry, a view that runs fundamentally opposite to how they thought and why the wrote.

        That’s why this is such an important issue. A Modernist TS Eliot interpretation of something like Shakespeare’s Hamlet is completely different from the interpretation of Hamlet by a classical scholar. And indeed hey could judge Hamlet to be a good or bad drama for very different reasons. Eliot said Shakespeare’s Hamlet lacked an “objective correlative.” That’s complete bull.

        Furthermore, I don’t think many at the SCP would condone or share your views on Schiller, Shelley and Keats. Your views on these three poets is extreme and hostile.

        You should probably speak for yourself and stop saying “we” and “us.”

        We need more debate on these issues and an outlet dedicated to “classical poets” is definitely a relevant venue for these discussions. So I don’t think it’s right to bunch everyone together, as if you are the spokesman. Or if you are, all the more, what you have to say about poetry is subject to reason and criticism, which you should happily welcome. Debate is a good thing, and debates about what make good poetry good are crucial. The discussion of the classical and Modernist tradition are just one example of the kinds of discussions which can shed light on this question.

        And since many do view you as an authority on poetry at the Society for Classical Poets, I think that naturally means you should expect to be questioned or challenged. And who would seriously argue that this isn’t a good thing?

        The fact that your characterization of classical poetry (again, we are at the Society for CLASSICAL Poets) is challenged doesn’t mean there is some dark conspiracy. In fact, that’s what the radicals usually say, whether communist, progressive or whatever: you are challenging our ideas and therefore threatening the foundations of our establishment and stability, this is dangerous and cannot be allowed.

        The first reflex is always to try and paint the other person as a subversive agent.

        I made a clear defence of Shelley, Schiller and Keats, all three of which you tried to slander. You can’t expect to make accusations like the ones you made and not expect to get any criticism. I don’t see how you can think that.

        Your views on Shelley, Keats and Schiller are wrong. And while no one has tried to disprove you, they also haven’t tried to defend your views.

        Both Modernist and Classical poetry have their virtues, but it’s important to make a distinction if we are to have an actual discussion of what constitutes classical poetry and what doesn’t, especially at a Society for Classical Poets…

        What you are espousing are the views and critical approach of Modernism and its “close reading” of a poem. That’s really all you are saying. You might think your ideas about poetry are your own, but they are not, they are rooted in a historically specific literary movement. You should at least own that. Say that you are of the John Crowe Ransome and Auden-ite “close reading” variety. All your views can be found in the literary criticism of these poets, the “Fugitives” literary movement and Nashville Agrarians. That’s where your ideas come from, whether you know it or not.

        And that’s fine. Everyone has axioms and ideas, the only question is do they know what the origin and source of these ideas are? You shouldn’t be so deluded as to believe that everything you are saying is really just your own original take on things. Your views are rooted in historically specific literary and artistic movements. They are purely Modernist aesthetical ideas. As a result, and not surprisingly, your views, as expressed, are in opposition to how a Keats, a Shelley or Schiller would approach poetic composition i.e. classical composition.

        That’s the issue.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Modernism is an aesthetic approach. A “close reading” is a neutral critical procedure that has nothing to do with the type of writing being analyzed.

        If you still can’t understand that elementary distinction, there’s no hope for you as a literary critic.

      • Norma Okun

        Shelley wrote in Ode to the West Wind:
        Shelley wrote in his poem Ode to the West Wind to me what poetry is:

        “O wild West Wind thou breath of autumn’s being,
        Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
        Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,”

        In my own words:

        I Say this is what poetry is.
        It is the breath given to man
        That makes us all alike, as well like our heart beat.
        And like the leaves that fall off the tree
        We are taken by the unseen creator.
        We come and go with His Will.

    • David B. Gosselin

      Dear Mr. Salemi,

      I can’t help but feel that you are arguing for a Society of Modernist Poets as opposed to a Society of Classical poets? You go out of your way to slander leading classical poets like Keats, Shelley and Schiller at every chance you get. None of your arguments support the classical ideal.

      I think it’s worth noting that the idea of classical poetry in English doesn’t have its origins in English at all. The idea of classical poetry has its roots in classical Greece and the Renaissance where we saw a rebirth of Platonic thought within Christian civilization, and the re-emergence of the classical Greek ideal. Thus, another one of the most iconic works of classical literature is Dante’s Commedia, which was essentially a Christian treatment of the classical Greek ideal, with a descent into the underworld (the Inferno) and the presence of Virgil (Dante’s guide to the Classical Greek world of Homer via the Latin of the Aeneid).

      To be clear, Keats and Shelley saw themselves as proponents of precisely this tradition, hence Keats’ most famous work, “Ode on a GRECIAN Urn” and his mature though unfinished “Hyperion.” His famous aphorism “Beauty is Truth” is a result of his reflections on the nature of the Classical Greek ideal.

      That’s where all this comes from. This is the actual historical context for the word “Classical” in the Western tradition. These are the facts.

      When you are dismissing the classical ideal as some kind of gaseous abstraction with your attacks on Keats, Shelley and Schiller, you’re actually explicitly positioning yourself as an opponent to the classical tradition, literally.

      Instead, what you continuously espouse IS the Modernist idea of poetry (or its Formalist spawn). I think you need to be careful when using the term classical.

      Furthermore, Edgar Allan Poe was also a great admirer of Schiller. And Schiller served as a major source of creative inspiration for Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Schumann et al. In fact, Beethoven’s final symphony used the lyrics of Schiller’s “Ode to Joy” as the basis for his greatest symphony. Are you aware of that? The most recognized and universal anthem of freedom is a symphonic setting of Schiller’s poetry.

      In fact, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is actually what they played in Tienanmen Square in CHINA to protest communism. Did you know that!?!?! This is what you are so hostile to? This is what you find so gaseous and authoritarian, universal anthems of freedom?

      As well, you’ve even gone out of your way to dismiss “abstract” ideas of Beauty and Truth–very much in the same way the Modernist T.S. Eliot dismissed Keats’ “Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty.” Every chance you get, you seem to take a position against the classical ideal in favor of twentieth century Modernism.

      Am I the only one to notice this?

      You consistently make statements and attacks against the leading English and German proponents of the classical ideal. What you seem to be advocating for is not a Society for Classical Poets, but a Society for Modernist Poets (or its Formalist offspring)?

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Alright, Gosselin, it’s time to take the gloves off. Let’s talk about the REAL reason why you keep coming here.

        You are associated with a LaRouche-ite organization called The Rising Tide Foundation of Canada, and your task is to colonize the SCP and make it another megaphone for LaRouche-ite aesthetic philosophy, much in the same manner as The Schiller Institute of Germany (run by Helga LaRouche, the man’s widow). And although I have mentioned LaRouche’s name several times in my exchanges with you, it’s strange that you NEVER respond to these mentions, much as an Amway dealer never utters the name “Amway” when trying to recruit members.

        You almost never make a simple comment on a posted poem’s structure or theme or diction, the way other commenters here do. Instead you wait for any slight opening or opportunity to orate for thirty paragraphs on “classic” poetry and “agape” and “creativity” — all of which are to be understood in your particular LaRouche-ite sense.

        You’re neither a literary critic, nor even an honest commentator. You just want to preach the gospel according to Lyndon and Helga. Your taste in poetry is utterly limited and narrow, since you have not the slightest interest in humor, satire, invective, politics, eroticism, narrative, parody, or anything other than the work of that sacred trinity, Schiller, Keats, and Shelley.

        Did those men write some excellent poetry? Yes, of course. BUT THAT’S NOT THE ONLY KIND OF POETRY THAT EXISTS! You seem to think that only soul-wrenching odes written on a windswept cliff with Sturm-und-Drang background music are acceptable. Well, I’ve got news for you. We here at the SCP don’t think that. We know that there is more to the English tradition of poetry than Romantic bombast and gaseousness.

        You have latched on to the word “classic” like a limpet to a rock. The word means NOTHING AT ALL. There’s “Classic” Coke. There are “Classic” films noir. There are “Classic” swing bands. Do you want to begin to learn something about literature? Then learn this: There are only GOOD poems, MEDIOCRE poems, and BAD poems. The word “classical” is just a catchword that you are using like a tedious and mind-numbing mantra, like your similar use of the word “timeless,” which has become so repetitious as to be embarrassing.

        You think that because we use the word “classical” in the website’s title that we are easy prey for your agenda, which is to assimilate the SCP into a large framework of your ideological goals. Forget it — it won’t work.

        In one of our previous exchanges you tried to brand me as a liberal. That didn’t work, so now you’re trying to label me a modernist.

        I’m very glad you support and honor the persons who stood up to Red Chinese totalitarianism in Tianamen Square. Let’s see if you get any flak from the LaRouche-ites about it. They’re very gung-ho on the CCP’s New-Silk-Road racket. You may have made what they call “an off-policy statement.”

      • Norma Okun

        Mr. David B. Gosselin,
        I back up your words, I have read the same things you have and I agree with your point of view. I feel you are a respectful, graceful and kind hearted critic of poetry and the people who we thank for being able to express what we could not. To me to honor what is there is the meaning of poetry. If you don’t know when to be firm and when to be accurate about people, objects and history, I believe your purpose ought to be revised.

  13. David Watt

    A bird on the wing is indeed a fine thing,
    And it seems we can’t fully express it,
    Because poets will try to make word and thought fly,
    Yet leave mysteries when they address it.

    “What can be explained is not poetry.”
    ― W.B. Yeats

  14. Sandi Christie

    A narcissistic God you must adore
    Or vengeful wrath for you is what’s in store.
    Within the hallowed walls of church He dwells,
    A weekly tithe will keep you out of hell.

    “All religion, my friend, is simply evolved out of fraud, fear, greed, imagination, and poetry.”
    ― Edgar Allan Poe

    • The Society

      Dear Sandi Christie,

      I’ll have to put a disclaimer on this one. See below:


      No, Poe was not an atheist. A widely-circulated quote attributed to him, that “all religion is simply evolved out of chicanery, fear, greed, imagination, and poetry,” is apocryphal. It originated from a justifiably obscure 1901 biography by a noisy crackpot named John Alexander Joyce, which is full of outlandish and clearly fictional statements. (Of especial note is his chapter claiming that “The Raven” was stolen from an 1809 poem called “The Parrot”–a work which never actually existed outside of Mr. Joyce’s fevered mind.) Joyce claimed to have received this quote from a “Mr. William Barton, who was a typo and foreman on the ‘Broadway Journal’ when Poe was editor of the paper.” I have not found any other indication this Barton even existed, and there is absolutely no reason to take this as evidence of Poe’s spiritual beliefs. His views were unquestionably unorthodox, but I dare anyone to read “Eureka,” “The Island of the Fay,” “Mesmeric Revelation,” “The Poetic Principle”–to make it short, just about anything he ever wrote–and still say he was an atheist.

      (Evan Mantyk, Editor)

      • Sandi Christie

        Evan, I don’t mind disclaimers or warnings of content, they are so much better than “cancelling”, so you have my applause. Thank you.

        Just for the record, neither the quote attributed to Poe, nor the poem that I wrote say anything about atheism. Clearly, a man who wrote “Eureka” and seemed to have some kind of spiritual revelation could not have been an atheist. I wish I could claim that I had read all of “Eureka”, but I only made my way through a small part of it, even after repeated attempts despite spending much of my life reading spiritual works and philosophy for the mere reason of searching for a God I could believe in and something that made sense in a world where nothing seems to make any sense at all.

        One can certainly lead a life filled with God and even become a disciple of Jesus himself without having any belief in organized religion or angry gods. I think many people would benefit in extraordinary ways by questioning the beliefs of religion and scripture the same way they question the information provided by the media today. The “media” of yesterday was the church.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Poe was unfortunate in his biographers. The viciously antagonistic Rufus Griswold got the ball rolling with his unfair and slanderous one soon after Poe’s death,, and this nasty bad-mouthing has stuck in the minds of future critics for many years. J.A. Joyce seems to have been part of the tradition.

        Much of it is due to old-fashioned American Puritanism, which has always hated drinking, smoking, bohemian lifestyles, the gothic imagination, and anything in literature that doesn’t follow the example of an embroidered and framed scriptural text. Besides all this, Poe was a committed Southerner by choice, and this stuck in the craws of New England pietists.

  15. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    I pick words from the grapevine – plump and sweet,
    Then roll their ripened wonder round my tongue;
    Extract their potent essence till they greet
    My senses with intoxicating fun.

    “Wine is bottled poetry.” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

    Revel in your poetry and store it in your heart,
    Then when sin cooks the history books and desecrates the art,
    You’ll cradle truth within your soul in word and wondrous line,
    And every time you sing its song its sacred light will shine.

    “Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.” ~ Plato

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Thank you very much, Roy, and thank you, too, for this wonderful and wholly inspirational challenge – it’s huge FUN!

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      The desire of the drunk for the bar,
      Of the john for the hooker,
      The devotion to a good cigar
      And a nice game of snooker.

      ==Percy “Swish” Kelley

    • Norma Okun

      The words are touching my soul. The moth related to our hopes and fears. The words musically give life to things that only poetry can do. It makes me feel something about a sphere of our sorrow. I love what you quoted from Shelley.

  16. David Paul Behrens

    Poetry that rhymes may be out of fashion;
    Unfortunately for me, it is my passion.
    So just like a king must wear his crown,
    If it will not rhyme, I won’t write it down.

  17. Sally Cook

    If poems are bold
    When reading verse,
    My body’s cold;
    But when they’re worse

    I don’t react.
    Won’t curse or shout
    Because of lack —
    Fling things about,
    Make fierce attack.

    When excellence
    Perchance shows up,
    It all makes sense —
    My head blows up.

    If I read a book [and] it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way?” – Emily Dickenson

    • Norma Okun

      I love the Emily Dickenson poem. I had tears over a poem when I read the first line. It sent me to my tears that I had over the death of my dad when I was six. I was moved to tears and realized, I had a place where I could cry, where I could enjoy myself, as well. I read the poems of Emily Dickenson. I remember the train she wrote about. She never mentioned the word, and yet it was what I saw a train. How did she move my imagination in that way. I have never felt understood as I have felt reading poetry. My favorite poems are by Eli Siegel 1902-1978.

  18. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Fine poetry will often turn its back
    On those with wrinkled noses in the air –
    Those pious hacks too busy giving flack
    Miss out on summer days beyond compare.

    “Most people ignore most poetry because most
    poetry ignores most people.” ~ Adrian Mitchell

  19. Mike Bryant

    In gatherings of poets, so it seems to me,
    There’s always one loquacious, sneering swine.
    Bloviating saviors always fail to see
    That saving poetry is not their job… it’s mine! 😉

    “They confine us, then malign us, in the end they undermine us,
    They are there, they are there, they are there.”
    – John Whitworth

  20. C.B. Anderson

    If lacking wit, what value has a soul?
    I’d rather read a single pungent quip
    Than read a hundred lines as dull as coal
    From authors on an endless ego trip.

    “The difference between genuine poetry and the poetry of Dryden, Pope, and all their school, is briefly this: their poetry is conceived and composed in their wits, genuine poetry is conceived and composed in the soul.”
    — Matthew Arnold

  21. Joseph S. Salemi

    Poems grant escape from squalid living,
    From fleshly stench, and class war’s tortured maze —
    They’re charming, but the art is unforgiving,
    Like writing fugues, or mixing mayonnaise.

    Poetry, to me, has but two meanings. On the one hand, it is a magical escape from the sordidness of metabolism and the class war, and on the other hand it is a subtle, very difficult and hence very charming art, like writing fugues or mixing mayonnaise.

    –H.L. Mencken, Dichtung und Wahrheit

  22. Mike Bryant

    My dog can’t describe a rat.
    What do you think of that?
    What’s poetry? No one can say,
    In exactly the very same way.

    I could no more define poetry than a terrier can define a rat.”
    – A. E. Housman

  23. Mike Bryant

    A poet’s life burns well
    As passion moves it.
    And when he’s gone to hell,
    The ash just proves it.

    Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash. ~Leonard Cohen

  24. Mike Bryant

    You’re wrong to think
    There’s something here to learn.
    Just read, then sink
    In words, then freeze or burn.

    The poet is in the end probably more afraid of the dogmatist who wants to extract the message from the poem and throw the poem away than he is of the sentimentalist who says, “Oh, just let me enjoy the poem.” ~Robert Penn Warren

  25. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    The muse’s H2O will have to go –
    A heady flute of fizz will take its place.
    For finest rhyme is only apt to flow
    When Calliope is clearly off her face.

    “No poems can please for long or live
    that are written by water-drinkers.” ~ Horace


    A poet must expose each fraud and foe,
    Kick up a stink with fires they need to stoke –
    Lay bare all wickedness and worldly woe
    Until it wakes the dippy, dozy Woke.

    “A poet’s work is to name the un-nameable, to point at
    frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world,
    and stop it going to sleep.” ~ Salman Rushdie


    When you have nothing left to lose,
    When all you had is dead and gone,
    Your soul will seek and find your muse
    To lift you in her lilting song.

    “There is poetry as soon as we realize we have nothing.” ~ John Cage

  26. Joseph S. Salemi

    “The poet’s job is to put into words those feelings we all have that are so deep, so important, and yet so difficult to name…”
    –Jane Kenyon

    Poetry’s emotional slop
    That lands on the floor with a plop.
    It’s deep and mysterious, important and serious,
    And Jane Kenyon pushes the mop.

  27. Mike Bryant

    Use poetry, said Robert Frost,
    To take life and to throttle it.
    That’s the secret found, once lost,
    To brew joy then to bottle it.

    “Poetry is a way of taking life by the throat.” —Robert Frost

  28. Robert James Liguori

    I’m told what I’m told what I’m told,
    A rose is a rose is a rose.
    I know what I know what I know,
    I go where I go where I go.

    ‘Rose is a rose is a rose’ in Sacred Emily by Gertrude Stein, 1913

  29. Robert James Liguori

    Famous Poet Quatrain Contest Entry – SCP – April 2021

    Where I go
    By Robert James Liguori

    Stein writes, ‘A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose’,
    Insight, ‘I’m told what I’m told what I’m told what I’m told’.
    My plight: ‘I know what I know what I know what I know’,
    So I recite, ‘I go where I go where I go where I go’.

    Inspired by ‘Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose’ in Sacred Emily by Gertrude Stein, 1913

  30. mia panayi

    What is poetry?

    Can I compare, tigers burning bright to starry nights,
    or fields of golden daffodils to sunflowers on a wall,
    those strings of black on white that sing in perfect harmony
    to still life which adorns palatial halls? Poems in different form be all.

    “Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.”
    ― Leonardo da Vinci

    “There is not a particle of life which does not bear poetry within it”
    ― Gustave Flaubert

  31. Marissa J. Howes

    The seed of every poem is a feeling.
    When feeling sprouts a thought, it yearns to be
    Put into words to simplify revealing.
    And that’s when it blooms into poetry.

    “Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.”
    ~ Robert Frost

  32. Tom Sheppard

    Come again if but a moment
    I, the doorman, a proponent
    Opens, closes, if perchance
    I offer you another glance

    Poetry is the opening and closing of a door, leaving those who look through to guess what is seen during a moment – Carl Sandburg

  33. Kathy Bahr

    Remembrance you glance glittering rise of
    Rivulet moans voice cleared the chattering
    Body of bird brushing diurnal clouds
    Coming down and the stars to comfort you

    If the love star grows most big
    By E.E. Cummings, Until his voice is more than bird.

  34. Kathy Bahr


    Remembrance, you glance, glittering rise of
    Rivulet moans. Voice cleared the chattering.
    Body of bird brushing diurnal clouds.
    Coming down and the stars to comfort you.

    If the Love Star Grows Most Big by E.E. Cummings, Until his voice is more than bird.

  35. Joshua C. Frank

    Bills in Verse

    You call a poem useless lines—
    This thought should give you pause:
    By words that change the people’s minds,
    We poets change the laws!

    “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” Percy Bysshe Shelley

  36. D.T. Holt

    “Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down.”

    Robert Frost

    Addling Flood

    Look at the abstract and bold, unrhymed lines;
    And feel them diffract all the light of your mind,
    Drowning the reader in an addling flood
    (like a wild nosebleed of a poem’s lifeblood).


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