Oyster Boy Review 20  
  Summer 2012
» Cover

» In Memoriam

» Art
» Poetry
» Fiction
» Essays
» Reviews

» Contributors

» Oyster Boy Review
» Levee 67


Quote Poet Unquote: Contemporary Quotations on Poets and Poetry

Jeffery Beam

  Quote Poet Unquote: Contemporary Quotations on Poets and Poetry.
Dennis O'Driscoll, editor.
Copper Canyon Press, 2008.
355 pages, $18 (paperback).
ISBN: 1556592701

Who among us readers and writers hasn't written down a pithy thought or aphorism come across in our meanderings through literature? Quote Poet Unquote gathers twenty years of collecting, in this case mostly from newspaper, book jackets, and journals, of contemporary statements about poetry and poets. Poet Dennis O'Driscoll, former editor of Poetry Ireland Review joins the ranks of writers such as Jonathan Williams and Jonathan Greene in creating a specialized collection in the style of Bartlett's and Oxford's books of quotations. Of course nowadays, through the Internet, a reader can access seemingly zillions of quotes, but the fun of works such as O'Driscoll's, Williams', and Greene's is the personal touch and the sharp critical mind that forms the compilation. I've been keeping a commonplace book myself for over 30 years, focused even more narrowly on poetry and the spiritual life which I hope to someday publish. The genre melds both reference and inspiration and is portable to boot.

O'Driscoll's collection includes sources and indices of the poets and those spoken about, and the almost 2,000 quotes are broken-down into 64 subject headings including "Making a Start," "Call Yourself a Poet?" "Profit Motives," "The Audience," "Readings," "U.S. Poetry," "Word Count," "Anthologies," "Alcohol and Pub Talk," and "Holy Writ." The styles vary from plain to artistically pleasing, comic to serious, provocative to silly.

Here's Charles Simic from the "Sex, Love and Marriage" chapter: "A thousand naked fornicating couples with their moans and contortions are nothing compared to a good metaphor." And this from "Beyond Words" by Russell Edson: "Words are the enemy of poetry." X. J. Kennedy in "Readings" states: "I often quit a poetry reading feeling like a one-pint measure into which the poet has tried to dump ten gallons." Quote Poet Unquote more than surpasses ten gallons; its pleasure lies in the reader's ability to stop and go at will, and to fill his or her cup at leisure and to taste. "You are writing in the dark if you read no one but yourself. And in the dark you can't read yourself properly." (Peter Sansom)

. . .