The Best Writing Advice From The 2016 Dodge Poetry Festival


Two weekends ago, the 2016 Dodge Poetry Festival was held. For those of you who might not know, the Dodge Poetry Festival is the largest poetry event in North America! I was lucky enough to get to attend three out of the four days, and saw accomplished and inspiring poets read their work and discuss literature. I collected the best advice on poetry, writing, and life for you! (I’ve also turned some of my favorite quotes into posters/bookmarks that you can print out and use.)

On Poetry

“Poetry makes you sit up straighter.”

-Stephanie Lenox

“The fewer people in your poem, the closer you are with the reader.”

-Billy Collins

“Poetry is an ecosystem where emotional truth is just as real as physical truth. Just as ice turns into water, anger turns into a bird.”

-Kaveh Akbar

“A poem should be tidy. It should look appealing on the page. If the lines are all about the same length, the poem has a breathing system.”

-Billy Collins

“Poetry works because people want to know that others feel the same way they do and are still able to create something beautiful.”

-Kaveh Akbar


“Make your poem like an eye chart. Everyone should be able to read the first e. The further along in the poem, the more you can make the reader work. “

-Billy Collins

“Poetry begins in absurdity and questions. If a poem is good, I don’t get an answer. Just better questions.”

-Stephanie Lenox

“When a poem makes immediate emotional demands, it seems inauthentic. Talk to me first.”

-Billy Collins

“Know your poetry family. What poets are linked to you? How are you connected?”

-Tanya Olson

“Poetry is not for the writer to be emotional. It is for the reader to be emotional. Moonlight poems are made with wine and feeling sorry for yourself. Daylight poems are written in the morning with a clear head. Write daylight poems, and if you must write moonlight poems, revise in the morning. 

-Billy Collins

“My favorite poem is the one that I have not yet written, the one that’s slightly out of reach.” 

-Stephanie Lenox

“Having a rhyme and steady beat creates trust. You can’t trust free verse poems in the same way. Those poems have to create trust in a different way. There has to be an authentic voice.”

-Billy Collins


“Line is a great thrown open window.”

-Jane Hirshfield

“Poetry is the practice of loving thy enemy.” 

-Yi Young Lee

“In prose, words don’t have to relate to each other. They have relationships only in their immediate syntax. In poetry, all words should be cousins. Words should be aware of other words around them. Poetry should be a playground, where all the kids are words getting along.”

-Billy Collins

“Silence is a syllable of speech.”

-Jane Hirshfield

“Your poem ends when I stop reading. I usually stop when I read the word ‘cicada.’ That, or ‘grandpa.’ There are too many characters in your poem already. Write a short story.”

-Billy Collins

On Writing


“Don’t worry about whether it’s poetry or prose while writing. Just write.”

-Tanya Olson

“What do I do when I am not inspired to write? I write anyways. There are ox poets and there are cat poets. Ox poets work steadily everyday, while cats nap, then pounce once they’ve gotten a good idea.”

-Kaveh Akbar

“Writing is going to a museum. It’s taking a shower, it’s looking into the distance. Embrace your life as a poet.”

-Stephanie Lenox


“Trust the muse. Trust that image, that first word. Be good to your art and it will be good to you.”

-Marilyn Chin

“I require silence to write because writing is a form of listening.” 

-Claudia Rankine

On Life

“Any experience that slows your metabolism of language is important.”

-Kaveh Akbar

Daily Quotes.png

“Ignorance is limitless, but luckily, so is discovery.” 

-Jane Hirshfield

If you want to use a poster/bookmark, simply save the image, insert it into a word document, and print it out!

So, what did you think of these quotes? Do you have a favorite? Did anyone else get to attend Dodge this year?

Let me know in the comments!



26 thoughts on “The Best Writing Advice From The 2016 Dodge Poetry Festival

  1. avathenerd says:

    These quotes are so beautiful and inspiring!
    And great job with the posters! My favourite ones are –
    “I require silence to write because writing is a form of listening.” -Claudia Rankine
    “Ignorance is limitless, but luckily, so is discovery.” -Jane Hirshfield
    Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 3 people

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