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Edith Sitwell on her poetry

My poems are hymns of praise to the glory of life.

Source: Dame Edith Sitwell, Collected Poems (1957). Some Notes on my Poetry.

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Wallace Stevens on poetry

A poem should be part of one’s sense of life.

Source: Wallace Stevens in his Adagia, Opus Posthumous (1957).

Robert Frost on poets

Do you know,
Considering the market, there are more
Poems produced than any other thing?
No wonder poets sometimes have to seem
So much more businesslike than businessmen.
Their wares are so much harder to get rid of.

Source: Robert Frost, “New Hampshire” (1923)

Wallace Stevens on poetry

…what makes the poet the potent figure that he is, or was, or ought to be, is that he creates the world to which we turn incessantly and without knowing it and that he gives to life the supreme fictions without which we are unable to conceive of it.

Source: Wallace Stevens, The Noble Rider and the Sound of Words (1942), p. 31.

Wallace Stevens on poetry

Poetry is the supreme fiction, madame.

Source: Wallace Stevens, A High-toned Old Christian woman (1923)


Poetry is the supreme fiction, madame.
Take the moral law and make a nave of it
And from the nave build haunted heaven. Thus,
The conscience is converted into palms,
Like windy citherns hankering for hymns.
We agree in principle. That’s clear. But take
The opposing law and make a peristyle,
And from the peristyle project a masque
Beyond the planets. Thus, our bawdiness,
Unpurged by epitaph, indulged at last,
Is equally converted into palms,
Squiggling like saxophones. And palm for palm,
Madame, we are where we began. Allow,
Therefore, that in the planetary scene
Your disaffected flagellants, well-stuffed,
Smacking their muzzy bellies in parade,
Proud of such novelties of the sublime,
Such tink and tank and tunk-a-tunk-tunk,
May, merely may, madame, whip from themselves
A jovial hullabaloo among the spheres.
This will make widows wince. But fictive things
Wink as they will. Wink most when widows wince.

Robert Frost on poetry

Poetry is a way of taking life by the throat.

Source: Robert Frost

Citation:  Elizabeth S. Sergeant, Robert Frost: the Trial by Existence, (1960).

Rilke on poetry

He was a poet and hated the approximate.

Source: Rainer Maria Rilke, The Journal of My Other Self (1930)

Counting-out rhyme in Wexford

One-ery, two-ery, dickery, Davy,
Hallabone, crackabone, tenery, Navy;
Discome, dandy, merry-come-tine,
Humbledy, bumbledy, twenty-nine,
O-U-T, out.  You must go out!

Source: Robert Ford, Children’s Rhymes, Children’s Games, Children’s Songs and Children’s Stories, (Paisley, 1903), 2nd edition, p.45.

>>Read a blog post on the Glaswegian rhyme and folksong collectors Robert Ford and John Ord

Sex as a serious matter – “In re venerea, nulla est parvitas materiae.”

In re venerea, nulla est parvitas materiae.

trans. In the area of sex, there is no small matter.

Source:  for a treatment of the topic, see Patrick Boyle, SJ (Loyola University of Chicago), his thesis (1983, PhD, Marquette University).

Citation: Robert Blair Kaiser, The Encyclical that Never Was (London, 1987), p. 33.

dangers of mistranslations – Sir Clements R. Markham

“several of Markham’s renditions of the early Spanish chronicles of Peru [are] decidedly defective and [can] not be trusted.”

eg, Y el indio que podia haber un grano de aquel maiz … para echarlo en sus orones.  Markham thought this meant: ‘The Indian who could obtain a grain of that maize … to place in his ears.’ Unfortunately, orones does not mean ears but baskets.

Source: F.B. Steck in H.F. Cline (ed), Latin American History: Essays in its Study and Teaching, 1898-1965, 2 vols, (Austin, Texas, 1967), pp. 352-354.