Paul Valery on Poetry

paul valery self-portrait

“The greatness of poets is that they grasp with their words what they only glimpse with their minds.”

“Of all occupations the poet’s is perhaps the one in which the greatest impatience has an essential need of the greatest patience.”

“A professional poet is a man (or woman, of course) who sits down regularly at the table of his mind to try his luck. It is a game of mixed chance. Cards are dealt, and the player calculates. He plays against the common language. A person plays against a brain, a semi-external being against a wholly internal one. Against oneself.”

“For a poet, it is never a matter of saying it is raining. It’s a matter of…making rain.”

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Contrasting Views

"Literalism is a feature of boorish translators." Cicero "The clumsiest literal translation is a thousand times more useful than the prettiest paraphrase." Nabokov

The Faerie Queene

"John Ashbery said reading the Faerie Queene was like reading an endless beautiful comic strip." Kenneth Koch

Sigmund Freud

"Everywhere I go, I find a poet has been there before me."


February 2008

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