Notable Quotes
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English poet (1949 - )

Babies are not brought by storks, and poets are not produced by workshops.

JAMES FENTON, Ronald Duncan Lecture, 1992

With the mistake your life goes in reverse.
Now you can see exactly what you did
Wrong yesterday and wrong the day before
And each mistake leads back to something worse.

JAMES FENTON, "The Mistake," Out of Danger

One door opens on love
And one door opens on death....
Turn the handle, hold your breath.

JAMES FENTON, "Love and Death"

That’s the way people go. They have a powerful experience and they use it to interpret, rightly or wrongly, what happens later in the rest of the world.

JAMES FENTON, Paris Review, fall 2012

The lullaby is the spell whereby the mother attempts to transform herself back from an ogre to a saint.

JAMES FENTON, "Ars Poetica," Independent on Sunday, Mar. 11, 1990

The poem that says "I love you" is the little black cocktail dress, the classic thing that everyone would like to have written one of.

JAMES FENTON, BBC Radio, Oct. 4, 1994

The way to learn to write poetry is: to write poetry. So we pass directly from the aspiration to the activity itself.

JAMES FENTON, Oxford University Gazette, Nov. 17, 1994

Self-publishing was quite a good idea if you were a poet, because it’s doable. And it’s better not to sit and let the resentments grow just because you’re not being published by a big American house.

JAMES FENTON, Paris Review, fall 2012

Poetry will wither on the vine if you don't regularly come back to the simplest fundamentals of the poem: rhythm, rhyme, simple subjects--love, death, war.

JAMES FENTON, The New Yorker, Jul. 25, 1994

Imitation, if it is not forgery, is a fine thing. It stems from a generous impulse, and a realistic sense of what can and cannot be done.

JAMES FENTON, "Ars Poetica," Independent on Sunday, Dec. 16, 1990

A properly written poem should have, implicit in its writing, the best indications as to how it should be read--how it should be interpreted is another matter, but the plainest pointer to how it should be read, built into the text, is what makes a poem a poem.

JAMES FENTON, The Guardian, Mar. 31, 2007


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