The May 2006 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee


National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website



In this issue:

Oakland Tenants Face Eviction

UC Attacks the Berkeley Freebox

Berkeley Freebox Poetry Contest

Reform Profit-Making Nursing Homes

A Berkeley Fair for Street Youth

Ultimate Gift of a Homeless Veteran

Tax Cuts for Rich Harm U.S.

Many Children Left Behind

S.F. Bayview: History Lesson in Urban Removal

Let Their Chains Fall Off

Poor Leonard's Almanack: On Poets and Poetry

May Poetry of the Streets


April 2006

March 2006

February 2006

January 2006

November 2005

October 2005

September 2005

August 2005

July 2005

June 2005

May 2005

April 2005

March 2005

February 2005




Street Spirit is published by American Friends Service Committee.

All works are copyrighted by the authors.

The views expressed in Street Spirit are those of the individual authors alone, and not necessarily that of the American Friends Service Committee.

On Poetry and Poets
Poor Leonard's Almanack

Quotations and Original Thoughts
by Leonard Roy Frank
Street Spirit, May 2006

Walt Whitman

"Where are Whitman's wild children,
where the great voices speaking out
with a sense of sweetness and sublimity,
where the great new vision,
the great world-view,
the high prophetic song


1. I have written this Poem from immediate Dictation, twelve or sometimes twenty or thirty lines at a time, without Premeditation and even against my Will; the Time it has taken in writing was thus render'd Non Existent, and an immense Poem Exists which seems to be the Labor of a long life, all produc'd without Labor or Study.
WILLIAM BLAKE (English poet), letter to his patron Thomas Butts, 25 April 1803. In a follow-up letter (6 July), Blake wrote Butts, "I may praise [the Poem], since I dare not pretend to be any other than the Secretary; the Authors are in Eternity."

2. I never had the least thought or inclination of turning poet till I got once heartily in love.
ROBERT BURNS (Scottish poet), Commonplace-Book, August 1783

3. The worst tragedy for a poet is to be admired through being misunderstood.
JEAN COCTEAU (French poet and playwright), Le Rappel a l'ordre, 1926

4. Delight is the chief if not the only end of poesy: instruction can be admitted but in the second place, for poetry only instructs as it delights.
JOHN DRYDEN (English poet), An Essay of Dramatic Poesy, 1688

5. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. ELIOT (U.S.-born British poet), The Sacred Wood, 1920

6. The essential advantage for a poet... is to be able to see beneath both beauty and ugliness; to see the boredom, and the horror, and the glory.
T. S. ELIOT, The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism, 1933

7. Dr. [Samuel] Johnson hearing that Adam Smith, whom he had once met, relished rhyme, said, "If I had known that, I should have hugged him."
RALPH WALDO EMERSON (philosopher), speech at the opening of the Concord Free Public Library, Massachusetts, autumn 1873

8. The great poets are judged by the frame of mind they induce.
RALPH WALDO EMERSON, preface to "Parnassus," 1874

9. Where are Whitman's wild children,
where the great voices speaking out
with a sense of sweetness and sublimity,
where the great new vision,
the great world-view,
the high prophetic song
of the immense earth
and all that sings in it
And our relation to it --
Poets, descend
to the street of the world once more
And open your minds & eyes
with the old visual delight,
Clear your throat and speak up,
Poetry is dead, long live poetry
with terrible eyes and buffalo strength.
Don't wait for the Revolution
or it'll happen without you.
LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI (San Francisco poet), "Populist Manifesto (For Poets, With Love)," 1975, The Populist Manifestos, 1981

10. Poetry the common carrier
for the transportation of the public
to higher places
than other wheels can carry it.
LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI, "Populist Manifesto," 1975

11. Poetry is news from the frontiers of consciousness.
LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI, "What Is Poetry?" San Francisco Chronicle Book Review, 16 January 2000

12. No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader. For me the initial delight is in the surprise of remembering something I didn't know I knew.
ROBERT FROST (poet), "The Figure a Poem Makes," Collected Poems of Robert Frost, 1939

13. One might make a ground for poetry by beginning to record just what goes on, actually, in your mind -- by not trying to write "a poem," really, but just trying to be somewhat of a scientist or investigator, scanning your own consciousness, noticing things, and then noticing what you noticed. Finally, you might say that this process does simply consist of noticing what you notice, or adding another observer, or an observer-consciousness to the person walking around in your body, so that you observe how you think, and what thoughts rose when - maybe recollecting them, or re-collecting your thought -- rather than trying to invent a "fine" thought: re-collecting what thought rose on its own from "the unborn," because the mind is continuously active, and is also discontinuous, so there's an endless variety of impression and generalization, language flowing through the head, pictures flashing, somewhat like MTV. The mind and MTV are not that dissimilar, in the sense of discontinuity and jumping from one image to another.
ALLEN GINSBURG (poet), panel discussion at the 1987 Annual PEN Congress in New York City, "Meditation on Politics," Shambhala Sun, July 1996

14. Poetry's role is to provide spontaneous individual candor as distinct from manipulators and brainwash.
ALLEN GINSBERG, quoted in "Allen Ginsberg Has Terminal Cancer," S.F. Chronicle, 4 April 1997

15. Science sees signs; Poetry, the thing signified.
J. C. and A. W. HARE (English writers and clergymen), Guesses at Truth: Second Series, 1848

16. Seven cities warr'd for Homer, being dead;
Who, living, had no roof to shroud his head.
THOMAS HEYWOOD (English playwright and poet), The Hierarchie of the Blesed Angells, 1635

17. As I went along, thinking of nothing in particular, only looking at things around me and following the progress of the seasons, there would flow into my mind, with sudden and unaccountable emotion, sometimes a line or two of verse, sometimes a whole stanza at once, accompanied, not preceded, by a vague notion of the poem which they were destined to form part of. Then there would usually be a lull of an hour or so, then perhaps the spring would bubble up again.
A. E. HOUSMAN (English poet), Cambridge University lecture, 1933, The Name and Nature of Poetry, 1933

18. Poet: A person born with an instinct for poverty.
ELBERT HUBBARD (writer and editor), The Roycroft Dictionary Concocted by Ali Baba and the Bunch on Rainy Days, 1914

19. [The poet] must write as the interpreter of nature, and the legislator of mankind, and consider himself as presiding over the thoughts and manners of future generations; as a being superior to time and place.
SAMUEL JOHNSON (English writer and lexicographer), Rasselas: The Prince of Abyssinia, 1759

20. Knowledge of the subject is to the poet what durable materials are to the architect.
SAMUEL JOHNSON, "Dryden," Lives of the English Poets, 1781

21. Poetry... should strike the Reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a Remembrance.
JOHN KEATS (English poet), letter to John Taylor, 27 February 1818

22. Poetry today is easier to write but harder to remember.
STANLEY KUNITZ (poet), quoted in Peter Davison, "Time, Please" (epigraph), Atlantic, September 1988

23. Glorious indeed is the world of God around us, but more glorious the world of God within us. There lies the Land of Song; there lies the poet's native land.
HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW (poet), Hyperion: A Romance, 1839

24. Publishing a volume of poetry today is like dropping a rose petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo.
DON MARQUIS (writer, 1878-1937), quoted in Edward Anthony, O Rare Don Marquis, 1962

25. The virtue of such great poets as Shakespeare does not lie in the content of their poetry, but in its music.
H. L. MENCKEN (journalist and editor), "The Poet and His Art," Prejudices: Third Series, 1922

26. If the poet can no longer speak for society, but only for himself, then we are at the last ditch.
HENRY MILLER (writer), The Time of the Assassins: A Study of Rimbaud, 1946

27. The poet is a reporter interviewing his own heart.
CHRISTOPHER MORLEY (writer), Inward Ho! 1923

28. Poets utter great and wise things which they do not themselves understand.
PLATO (Greek philosopher, 427?-347 B.C.), quoted in Ralph Waldo Emerson, "History," Essays: First Series, 1841

29. Sir, I admit your gen'ral Rule
That every Poet is a Fool:
But you yourself may serve to show it,
That every Fool is not a Poet.
ALEXANDER POPE (English poet), "Epigram from the French," 1732

30. Poetry is above all a concentration of the power of language, which is the power of our ultimate relationship to everything in the universe.
ADRIENNE RICH (poet), introductory essay to Judy Grahn, The Work of a Common Woman, 1978

31. The impulse to create begins - often terribly and fearfully - in a tunnel of silence. Every real poem is the breaking of an existing silence, and the first question we might ask any poem is, What kind of voice is breaking silence, and what kind of silence is being broken?
ADRIENNE RICH, essay, Arts of the Possible, 2001

32. Breathe-in experience, breathe-out poetry.
MURIEL RUKEYSER (poet), "Poem Out of Childhood," Theory of Flight, 1935

33. Poetry is vocal painting, as painting is silent poetry.
SIMONIDES of CEOS (Greek poet, 556-468 B.C.), attributed, quoted in H. L. Mencken, editor, A New Dictionary of Quotations, 1942

34. My poems are hymns of praise to the glory of life.
EDITH SITWELL (English poet), "Some Notes on My Poetry," Collected Poems, 1954

35. Why are we poets? Because we can
not sing, that is why.
JENNIFER STONE (Berkeley writer and KPFA commentator), "Pathography," The Tomcat

36. Mad Verse, Sad Verse, Glad Verse and Bad Verse.
JOHN TAYLOR (English writer), book title, 1644

37. A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it. A good poem helps to change the shape and significance of the universe, helps to extend everyone's knowledge of himself and the world around him.
DYLAN THOMAS (Welsh poet), Quite Early One Morning, 1954

38. A poem is never finished, only abandoned.
PAUL VALERY (French poet and critic, 1871-1945), quoted in W. H. Auden, "Writing," A Certain World: A Commonplace Book, 1971

39. Poetry is to prose as dancing is to walking.
JOHN WAIN (English writer), radio broadcast, London, 13 January 1976

40. There is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem.
BOOKER T. WASHINGTON (educator), Atlanta Exposition address, 18 September 1895, Up from Slavery: An Autobiography, 1901

41. All good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.
WILLIAM WORDSWORTH (English poet), preface to Lyrical Ballads, 1805

42. Anonymous: How are you?
Yeats: Not very well. I can only write prose today.
WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS (Irish poet, 1865-1939), format adapted, quoted in Frank S. Pepper, editor, The Wit and Wisdom of the 20th Century: A Dictionary of Quotations, 1987

43. Poetry is like a bird, it ignores all frontiers.
YEVGENY YEVTUSHENKO (Russian poet), quoted in Quote, 2 July 1967

44. There are two kinds of poets: those who write for the times and those who write for the ages.

45. In everyone lies a poet buried young waiting to be resurrected.

46. The finest poetry draws us into the mystery and sometimes beyond it.


Leonard Roy Frank is the editor of Random House Webster's Quotationary. His "Frankly Quoted" column, distributed freely over the Internet every month, consists of 30-35 quotes and original thoughts, mostly about current events. To get on the "Frankly Quoted" listserve, send your e-mail address.

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