Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Words powerfully influence our lives and yet we so often take them for granted throwing them off into the world with little or no thought. Poetry reverses that tendency mixing words with contemplation, time, and insight. Poets easily become our prophets, iconoclastic smashers of conventional mind, status quo view, and animal-realm ignorance. Corrupt societies ridicule and condemn their poets; sane, healthy, and enlightened ones give them honor and respect.

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Quotes (77)

“It's not death that allows us to understand one another, but poetry.”

Lavinia 1 via Ursula Le Guin
Prophetess and co-foundrer of the Roman Empire
from Lavinia

Themes: Poetry

“Wise words sleep in a foolish ear.”

Euripides 480 – 406 BCE via Philip Vellacott, Shan Dao
Ancient humanitarian influence continuing today
from Bacchae Βάκχαι

Themes: Poetry

“Not by wisdom do poets write poetry, but by a sort of genius and inspiration.”

Socrates 469 – 399 BCE via Jowett
One of the most powerful influences on Western Civilization

Themes: Poetry

“It is Homer who has chiefly taught other poets the art of telling lies skillfully.”

Aristotle Ἀριστοτέλης 382 – 322 BCE

Themes: Poetry

“Poetry serves to communicate the hearts and hopes of men.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE via Lin Yutang

from Zhuangzi

Themes: Poetry Hope

“A picture is a poem without words.”

Horace 65 – 8 BCE

Themes: Poetry

64. Ordinary Mind

“Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks.”

Plutarch 46 – 120 CE
(Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus)

Themes: Poetry

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“Poetry is devil's wine.”

Augustine ɔːɡəstiːn 354 – 430 CE
(Saint Augustine, Saint Austin, Augustine of Hippo)
from Confessions (397-398)

Themes: Poetry

“My poem is done, I laugh and my delight is vaster than the sea.
Oh deathless poetry! The songs of Chu-ping are ever glorious as the sun and moon.
While the palaces and towers of the Chu kings have vanished from the hills.”

Li Bai 李白 701 – 762 CE
(Li Bo)

“Poetry, philosophy, and science are 3 different manifestations of the same spiritual force searching for the solution to the riddle of existence; science looking from the physical point of view, philosophy from the mental side, and poetry trying to penetrate the mystery with its vision.”

Solomon ibn Gabirol שלמה בן יהודה אבן גבירול 1021 – 1070 CE via Zangwill, Shan Dao

“Poetry, philosophy, and science are 3 different manifestations of the same spiritual force searching for the solution to the riddle of existence; science looking from the physical point of view, philosophy from the mental side, and poetry trying to penetrate the mystery with its vision.”

Solomon ibn Gabirol שלמה בן יהודה אבן גבירול 1021 – 1070 CE via Zangwill, Shan Dao

“Great poets show how the sacred fire of Venus may be made to burn in the coldest breast.”

Giovanni Boccaccio dʒoˈvanni bokˈkattʃo 1313 – 1375 CE

Themes: Poetry

“It's not those who write the laws that have the greatest impact on society. It's those who write the songs.”

Blaise Pascal 1623 – 1662 CE
One of the greatest French writers of all time

Themes: Poetry Music

“Real poetry, is to lead a beautiful life. To live poetry is better than to write it.”

Matsuo Bashō 松尾 芭蕉 1644 – 1694 CE

Themes: Poetry

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“[Virgil] The Delight of all Ages, and the Pattern of all Poets.

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE
from ​An Essay on Epic Poetry (1727)

Themes: Poetry

“Poetry must have something in it that is barbaric, vast and wild.”

Diderot 1713 – 1784 CE
from Encyclopédie

Themes: Poetry

“When you understand that my poems aren’t really poems, then we can talk poetry together.”

Ryokan 良寛大愚 1758 – 1758 CE
(Ryōkan Taigu,“The Great Fool”)

Themes: Poetry

2. The Wordless Teachings

“Poetry is the first and last of all knowledge - it is as immortal as the heart of man.”

William Wordsworth 1770 – 1850 CE

2. The Wordless Teachings

“Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by reason.”

Novalis 1772 – 1831 CE

Themes: Poetry

56. One with the Dust

“The poet brings the whole soul of a man into activity, diffuses a tone and spirit of unity that blends each into each by that magical power we call imagination.”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge 1772 – 1834 CE via Shan Dao
from Biographia Literaria, 1817

“A poem is the very image of life expressed in its eternal truth, at once the center and circumference of knowledge. Poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted... it awakens and enlarges the mind lifting the veil from the hidden beauty of the world.”

Percy Bysshe Shelley 1792 – 1822 CE via Christopher Moore

Themes: Poetry Truth

“The poetic mind has no self, no character, no identity; it is every thing and nothing, continually filling some other Body: The Sun, the Moon, the Sea and Men and Women”

John Keats 1795 – 1821 CE
Writer of "poems as immortal as English"

“Love is the poetry of the senses.”

Balzac 1799 – 1850 CE
(Honoré de Balzac)

Themes: Love Poetry

“poetry will take a great step, a decisive step, a step which, like the upheaval of an earthquake, will change the whole face of the intellectual world. It will set about doing as nature does, mingling in its creations—but without confounding them—darkness and light, the grotesque and the sublime; in other words, the body and the soul, the beast and the intellect; for the starting-point of religion is always the starting-point of poetry. All things are connected.”

Victor Hugo 1802 – 1885 CE
Literary pioneer, poet, and social justice provocateur
from Cromwell, 1827

Themes: Poetry Religion

“Poetry must be as new as foam, and as old as the rock.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803 – 1882 CE
Champion of individualism

Themes: Poetry

“I would define, in brief, the poetry of words as the rhythmical creation of Beauty.”

Edgar Allan Poe Edgar Allen Poe 1809 – 1849 CE
from The Poetic Principle (1850)

Themes: Poetry Beauty

“In this world things are beautiful only because they are not quite seen, or not perfectly understood. Poetry is precious chiefly because it suggests more than it declares.”

Anthony Trollope 1815 – 1882 CE
Novelist as teacher

from Can You Forgive Her?

Themes: Poetry

“The discoverer and the poet are inventors; and they are so because their mental vision detects the unapparent, unsuspected facts, almost as vividly as ocular vision rests on the apparent and familiar.”

George Henry Lewes 1817 – 1878 CE
English philosopher and soul mate to George Eliot
from The Principles of Success in Literature (1865)

Themes: Creativity Poetry

“The proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorbed it.”

Walt Whitman 1819 – 1892 CE
Premier "poet of democracy" and model for Dracula

Themes: Poetry

“It is always fatal to have music or poetry interrupted.”

George Eliot 1819 – 1880 CE
(Mary Anne Evans)
Pioneering literary outsider

from Middlemarch

Themes: Music Poetry

“To have great poets there must be great audiences”

Walt Whitman 1819 – 1892 CE
Premier "poet of democracy" and model for Dracula

Themes: Poetry

“Shakespeare is not only no genius but is not even 'an average author'... his words have nothing in common with art and poetry.”

Leo Tolstoy 1828 – 1910 CE
from Shakespeare and the Drama (1903)

Themes: Poetry

“to find that phosphorescence, that light within, that's the genius behind poetry.”

Emily Dickinson 1830 – 1886 CE

Themes: Poetry

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“I was completely ignorant of the poetry of Poe; it is admirable, it is poetry itself, the dream, and how one feels that you have translated its soul! I knew only Poe's prose, which I had read and admired very young before I had heard it spoken of, but how the poems complete and express the man he was.”

Claude Monet 1840 – 1926 CE
"the driving force behind Impressionism"

Themes: Poetry Dream

“What can be explained is not poetry.”

W.B. (William Butler) Yeats 1865 – 1939 CE

Themes: Poetry

56. One with the Dust

“Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry.”

W.B. (William Butler) Yeats 1865 – 1939 CE

31. Victory Funeral

“Of our conflicts with others, we make rhetoric; of our conflicts with ourselves, we make poetry.”

W.B. (William Butler) Yeats 1865 – 1939 CE

Themes: Poetry Conflict

“None but a poet can write a tragedy. For tragedy is nothing less than pain transmuted into exaltation by the alchemy of poetry.”

Edith Hamilton 1867 – 1963 CE

“The true spirit of delight, the exultation—the sense of being more than Man—is to be found in mathematics as surely as in poetry.”

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”

“If there were no girls like them in the world, there would be no poetry.”

Willa Cather 1873 – 1948 CE
Modern day Lao Tzu

Themes: Poetry Sex

61. Lying Low

“Solitude gives birth to the original in us, to beauty unfamiliar and perilous—to poetry.”

Thomas Mann 1875 – 1955 CE
Deep, psychologically insightful author
from Death in Venice (1924)

“Nations are born in the hearts of poets, they prosper and die in the hands of politicians.”

Muhammad Iqbal محمد اقبال 1877 – 1938 CE

“When truth has no burning, then it is philosophy, when it gets burning from the heart, it becomes poetry.”

Muhammad Iqbal محمد اقبال 1877 – 1938 CE

“The ear is the antechamber to the soul and poetry can adulterate more surely than lust or gunpowder. The poet’s then is the highest office of all, His words reach where others fall short”

Virginia Woolf 1882 – 1941 CE
from Orlando: A Biography

Themes: Poetry
“Was not writing poetry a secret transaction, a voice answering a voice?”

Virginia Woolf 1882 – 1941 CE

Themes: Poetry

“What has praise and fame to do with poetry? Was not writing poetry a secret transaction, a voice answering a voice… what could be more secret, more slow, and like the intercourse of lovers?”

Virginia Woolf 1882 – 1941 CE via Shan Dao
from Orlando: A Biography

Themes: Poetry Fame

“I've attempted to fuse poetry and painting, to make it the same thing”

William Carlos Williams 1883 – 1963 CE

Themes: Poetry

“Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky, We fell them down and turn them into paper, that we may record our emptiness.”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE

Themes: Poetry

66. Go Low

“the great secret: that by means of poetry all this suffering and effort could be transformed into dream; no matter how much of the ephemeral existed, poetry could immortalize it by turning it into song.”

Nikos Kazantzakis 1883 – 1957 CE
from Report to Greco

Themes: Magic Poetry

“Love—unknown to primitive men, or only as a hunger of the flesh—has flowered into a magnificent garden of song and sentiment, in which the passion of a man for a maid, though vigorously rooted in physical need, rises like incense into the realm of living poetry.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE via R.J. Hollingdale
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time

Themes: Sex Poetry

“Poetry begins to atrophy when it gets too far from music.”

Ezra Pound 1885 – 1972 CE

Themes: Poetry Music

“No honest poet can ever feel quite sure of the permanent value of what he has written: he may have wasted his time and messed up his life for nothing.”

T. S. Eliot 1888 – 1965 CE

Themes: Poetry

“Poetry is a rich, full-bodied whistle, cracked ice crunching in pails, the night that numbs the leaf, the duel of two nightingales, the sweet pea that has run wild, Creation’s tears in shoulder blades.”

Boris Pasternak Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к 1890 – 1960 CE
Russia's greatest poet
from LIFE magazine

Themes: Poetry

“We all derive from the same source… We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there.”

Henry Miller 1891 – 1980 CE

1. The Unnamed

“But I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin. — John the Savage”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE
from Brave New World

Themes: God Poetry

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“If only good intentions were enough to make good poetry!”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE
from Island

Themes: Poetry

“Only the free-wheeling artist-explorer, non-academic, scientist-philosopher, mechanic, economist-poet who has never waited for patron-starting and accrediting of his co-ordinate capabilities holds the prime initiative today.”

Buckminster Fuller 1895 – 1983 CE

28. Turning Back

“To see life as a poem and yourself participating in a poem is what a myth does for you.”

Joseph Campbell 1904 – 1987 CE
Great translator of ancient myth into modern symbols
from Power of Myth

Themes: Poetry

“Japanese poetry does what poetry does everywhere: it intensifies and exalts experience.”

Kenneth Rexroth 1905 – 1982 CE
"Father of the Beats”

Themes: Poetry

“There is no time in modern agriculture for a farmer to write a poem or compose a song.”

Masanobu Fukuoka 福岡 正信 1913 – 2008 CE
from Road Back to Nature

Themes: Poetry

“To read a poem is to hear it with our eyes; to hear it is to see it with our ears.”

Octavio Paz 1914 – 1998 CE
Persuasive poet and convincing social commentator

Themes: Poetry

“Poetry is a special use of language that opens onto the real. The business of the poet is truth telling, which is why in the Celtic tradition no one could be a teacher unless he or she was a poet.”

Huston Smith 1919 – 2016 CE
from World's Religions

Themes: Poetry Truth

“If you're a poet, you do something beautiful. I mean you're supposed to leave something beautiful after you get off the page... It doesn't have to be a poem, for heaven's sake. It may just be some kind of terribly fascinating, syntaxy droppings...”

J. D. Salinger 1919 – 2010 CE via Franny
from Franny and Zooey

Themes: Poetry

“the dangers of prolonged contact with any poetry that seems to exceed what we most familiarly know of the the first-class are formidable... Used with moderation, a first-class verse is an excellent and usually fast-working form of heat therapy.”

J. D. Salinger 1919 – 2010 CE
from Raise High the Roof Beams, Seymour an Introduction

Themes: Poetry Medicine

“It is the paradox of every poet to have to transcend the logical function of language through language... Because paradox is the principal mode of Lao Tzu's thought processes, it is the nature of Chinese language, especially ancient Chinese, to be poetic.”

Ralph Alan Dale 1920 – 2006 CE
Translator, author, visionary
from Tao Te Ching, a new translation and commentary

Themes: Paradox Poetry

“Fire results in smoke and ashes... poetry results in publishing and dust”

Jack Kerouac 1922 – 1969 CE
from Some of the Dharma

Themes: Poetry

“If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper... If the cloud in not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either.”

Thích Nhất Hạnh tʰǐk ɲɜ̌t hɐ̂ʔɲ 1926 CE –

Themes: Poetry Books

“We need more poetry in politics.

Shan Dao 山道 1933 CE –

“Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.”

Leonard Cohen 1934 – 2016 CE

Themes: Poetry

“Birds are poems I haven't caught yet.”

Jim Harrison 1937 – 2016 CE
"untrammeled renegade genius”

Themes: Poetry

“Poetry, at its best, is the language your soul would speak if you could teach your soul to speak.”

Jim Harrison 1937 – 2016 CE
"untrammeled renegade genius”

Themes: Poetry

“Poetics also includes one's vision, hearing, and feeling altogether... When we talk about poets and poetics, we are talking in terms of expressing ourselves so thoroughly, so precisely, that we don't just mumble our words, mumble our minds, mumble our bodies.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Dharma Poetics

Themes: Poetry

“If words are of any use at all, they are the words of the poet. For poetry has the ability to point us toward the truth, then stand aside.”

Red Pine 1943 CE – via Red Pine
( Bill Porter)
Exceptional translator, cultural diplomat
from Lao-Tzu's Taoteching

1. The Unnamed

“The poets preserved what the censors destroyed.”

Jack Weatherford 1945 CE –
from Secret History of the Mongol Queens

Themes: Poetry

“A poet's work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep.”

Salman Rushdie 1947 CE –
Fearless antagonist of Islamic fundamentalism

Themes: Poetry

“Just as a great poet can use one scene to bring another new, unknown vista into view… the best metaphors make the best poems… filled with hidden possibilities that only the finest metaphors can bring to the surface.”

Haruki Murakami 1949 CE –
from Killing Commendatore

Themes: Poetry

“poems of Parmenides and Empedocles… designed to lead the reader to a direct experience of the oneness of reality and the realization of his or her own divinity.”

Peter Kingsley 1953 CE –
from A Story Waiting to Pierce You

Themes: Poetry Oneness

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