A poet is a man who manages, in a lifetime of standing out in thunderstorms, to be struck by lightning five or six times.— Randall Jarrell
The most practical Randall Jarrell quotes that are new and everybody is talking about
One of the most obvious facts about grownups to a child is that they have forgotten what it is like to be a child.
It is better to entertain an idea than to take it home to live with you for the rest of your life.
Goethe said that the worst thing in art is technical facility accompanied by triteness. Many an artist, like God, has never needed to think twice about anything. His works are the mad scene from Giselle , on ice skates: he weeps, pulls out his hair holding his wrists like Lifar and tells you what Life is, all at a gliding forty miles an hour.
Art matters not merely because it is the most magnificent ornament and the most nearly unfailing occupation of our lives, but because it is life itself.
Christina Stead has a Chinese say, "Our old age is perhaps life's decision about us" or, worse, the decision we have made about ourselves without ever realizing we were making it.
I think that one possible definition of our modern culture is that it is one in which nine-tenths of our intellectuals can't read any poetry.
The Southern past, the Southern present, the Southern future, concentrated into Gertrude's voice, became one of red clay pine-barrens, of chain-gang camps, of housewives dressed in flour sacks who stare all day dully down into dirty sinks.
How can we expect novelists to be moral, when their trade forces them to treat every end they meet as no more than an imperfect means to a novel?
The climate of our culture is changing.
Under these new rains, new suns, small things grow great, and what was great grows small; whole species disappear and are replaced.
Goethe said, "The author whom a lexicon can keep up with is worth nothing";
Somerset Maugham says that the finest compliment he ever received was a letter in which one of his readers said: "I read your novel without having to look up a single word in the dictionary." These writers, plainly, lived in different worlds.
If you look at the world with parted lips and a pure heart, and will the good, won't that make a true and beautiful poem? One's heart tells one that it will; and one's heart is wrong. There is no direct road to Parnassus.
If my tone is mocking, the tone of someone accustomed to helplessness, this is natural: the poet is a condemned man for whom the State will not even buy breakfast and as someone said, "If you're going to hang me, you mustn't expect to be able to intimidate me into sparing your feelings during the execution."
Few poets have made a more interesting rhetoric out of just fooling around: turning things upside down, looking at them from under the sofa, considering them (and their observer) curiously enough to make the reader protest, "That were to consider it too curiously.
The blind date that has stood you up: your life.
If you never look just wrong to your contemporaries you will never look just right to posterity - every writer has to try to be, to some extent, sometimes, a law unto himself.
Most people don't listen to classical music at all, but to rock-and-roll or hillbilly songs or some album named Music To Listen To Music By.
An author frequently chooses solemn or overwhelming subjects to write about;
he is so impressed at writing about Life and Death that he does not notice that he is saying nothing of the slightest importance about either.
Both in verse and in prose [Karl] Shapiro loves, partly out of indignation and partly out of sheer mischievousness, to tell the naked truths or half-truths or quarter-truths that will make anybody's hair stand on end; he is always crying: "But he hasn't any clothes on!" about an emperor who is half the time surprisingly well-dressed.
If wishes were stories, beggars would read.
In Heaven all reviews will be favorable;
here on earth, the publisher realizes, plausibility demands an occasional bad one, some convincing lump in all that leaven, and he accepts it somewhat as a theologian accepts Evil.
Most poets, most good poets even, no longer have the heart to write about what is most terrible in the world of the present: the bombs waiting beside the rockets, the hundreds of millions staring into the temporary shelter of their television sets, the decline of the West that seems less a decline than the fall preceding an explosion.
I shook myself; I was dreaming. As I went to bed the words of the eighth-grade class's teacher, when the class got to Evangeline , kept echoing in my ears: "We're coming to a long poem now, boys and girls. Now don't be babies and start counting the pages." I lay there like a baby, counting the pages over and over, counting the pages.
And the world said, Child, you will not be missed.
You are cheaper than a wrench, your back is a road; Your death is a table in a book. You had our wit, our heart was sealed to you: Man is the judgment of the world.
A poem is, so to speak, a way of making you forget how you wrote it.
The usual criticism of a novel about an artist is that, no matter how real he is as a man, he is not real to us as an artist, since we have to take on trust the works of art he produces.
Human life without some form of poetry is not human life but animal existence.
I see at last that all the knowledge I wrung from the darkness - that darkness flung me - Is worthless as ignorance: nothing comes from nothing The darkness from the darkness. Pain comes from the darkness And we call it wisdom. It is pain.
To Americans, English manners are far more frightening than none at all.
Say what you like, but such things do happen - not often, but they do happen.
If we meet an honest and intelligent politician, a dozen, a hundred, we say they aren't like politicians at all, and our category of politicians stays unchanged; we know what politicians are like.
The safest way to avoid the world is through art;
and the safest way to be linked to the world is through art.
The novel is a prose narrative of some length that has something wrong with it.
Some of Mr. Gregory's poems have merely appeared in The New Yorker ; others are New Yorker poems: the inclusive topicality, the informed and casual smartness, the flat fashionable irony, meaningless because it proceeds from a frame of reference whose amorphous superiority is the most definite thing about it they are the trademark not simply of a magazine but of a class.
A successful poem says what a poet wants to say, and more, with particular finality. The remarks he makes about his poems are incidental when the poem is good, or embarrassing or absurd when it is bad and he is not permitted to say how the good poem is good, and may never know how the bad poem is bad. It is better to write about other people's poetry.
First one gets works of art, then criticism of them, then criticism of the criticism, and, finally, a book on The Literary Situation , a book which tells you all about writers, critics, publishing, paperbacked books, the tendencies of the (literary) time, what sells and how much, what writers wear and drink and want, what their wives wear and drink and want, and so on.
A correct answer is like an affectionate kiss, Goethe said;
a correct answer, Gertrude would have said, is like a slap in the face.
I think Miss Moore was right to cut "The Steeple-Jack" - the poem seems plainer and clearer in its shortened state but she has cut too much... The reader may feel like saying, "Let her do as she pleases with the poem; it's hers, isn't it?" No; it's much too good a poem for that, it long ago became everybody's, and we can protest just as we could if Donatello cut off David's left leg.
Is an institution always a man's shadow shortened in the sun, the lowest common denominator of everybody in it?
It is always hard for poets to believe that one says their poems are bad not because one is a fiend but because their poems are bad.
One of the most obvious facts about grown-ups, to a child, is that they have forgotten what it is like to be a child.
Most works of art are, necessarily, bad...; one suffers through the many for the few.
Many poets write as if they had been decerebrated, and not simply lobotomized, as a cure for their melancholia.
I decided that Europeans and Americans are like men and women: they understand each other worse, and it matters less, than either of them suppose.
A person is a process, one that leads to death.
Read at whim! Read at whim!
The dark, uneasy world of family life - where the greatest can fail and the humblest succeed.
When you're young you try to be methodical and philosophical, but reality keeps breaking in.
Underneath all his writing there is the settled determination to use certain words, to take certain attitudes, to produce a certain atmosphere; what he is seeing or thinking or feeling has hardly any influence on the way he writes. The reader can reply, ironically, "That's what it means to have a style"; but few people have so much of one, or one so obdurate that you can say of it, "It is a style that no subject can change.
One of the most puzzling things about a novel is that "the way it really was" half the time is, and half the time isn't, the way it ought to be in the novel.