Quotes / Sources




“Natural selection is an editor, not a creator.”

-Dorion Sagan-

“We exist, we write, only ‘for’ this staggering spillage of meaning”

Jean-Luc Nancy

“Art is a mystery.  Artifice its form.”

Susan Howe

“As a body is to a person, so language is to the world”

-Charles Bernstein-

“Poetry is an effort of a dissatisfied person to find satisfaction through words, occasionally of the dissatisfied thinker to find satisfaction through emotions”

-Wallace Stevens-

“All words run along the margins of their secrets”

-Susan Howe-

“Can we come to the realization that language is one of the languages?”

-James Sherry-

“A man is a language, a process of communication”

-Fairbanks / Sebeok-

“a book’s function…is…not a useless redoubling of reality but its continuation by other means”
-Marcel Benabou-

“Process never achieves prescriptive certainty and its results are never fully consumable”

Lucio Pozzi

“Writing is..a privacy in which the self itself disappears and leaves us the world”

-Charles Bernstein-

“The best artist is the imperfect artist”

-Wyndham Lewis-

“A concept is a convenient capsule of thought that embraces thousands of distinct experiences and that is ready to take in thousands more”

Edward Sapir

“Art, to me, is nothing but a testimony of a flow where order and disorder are interchangeable and where the darkness of inspiration and desire fulfill unknown purposes within the appearance of time and space”

-Lucio Pozzi-

“The world of appearances is complicated, and language has only verbalized a miniscule part of its potential, indefatigable combinations”

Jorge Luis Borges

“He would never know what he knew.  Such was solitude.”

Maurice Blanchot

“dialogue is an infinite process that renders the intangible tangible and the impossible possible”

George Bernard Shaw

“A text is a lazy machine that wants its reader to do part of its job”

Umberto Eco

“The mind is a multiplicity of individuals”

Emmanuel Levinas

“What is unique is universal”

Edmond Jabes

“The instrument makes possible the product, the product refines the instrument”

(on language) -Edward Sapir-

“The man who unmasks his fictions renounces his own resources and, in a sense, himself”

E.M. Cioran

“a text is a machine conceived in order to elicit interpretations”

-Umberto Eco-

“Here’s the paradox: finding your own voice as a writer means – or is the equivalent of – feeling free in your own skin”

-A. Alvarez-

“for readers and writers, unlike pilots and to an order of magnitude beyond hikers, safe arrival at a destination matters less than achieving a reorienting vision of the world”

H.L. Hix

“reading and writing…knows words in the world much as people are”

“seeing and hearing words in the world as the specific possibilities they contain”

-Robert Creeley-

“it is true that, much as I have only ever written inconclusive fragments, I have never ceased to take myself for a maker of literature”

-Marcel Benabou-

“Language is an efficient ordering of the world’s enigmatic abundance”

-Jorge Luis Borges-

“language…the creation of sociality”

-V.N. Volosinov-

“one always perishes by the self one assumes: to bear a name is to claim an exact mode of collapse”

-E.M. Cioran-

“I cannot keep my subject still, it goes along befuddled and staggering, with a natural drunkenness”

-Michel de Montaigne-

“I speak now and shelter in the tent of language or writing”

-Michel Serres-

“the visible is perhaps only an invisible anxious to be known”

-Edmond Jabes-

“What to write on the blank sheet of paper, already blackened with every conceivable handwriting?  Choose, why choose?”

-J.M.G. le Clezio-

“my mind was going and so was my hand”

-Jim Dine-

“Always seek the hard, definite, personal word”

T.E. Hulme

“Thus my language is the sum total of myself, for the man is the thought”

-Charles S. Peirce-

“all language is of a successive nature; it does not lend itself to reasoning on eternal, intemporal matters”

-Jorge Luis Borges-

“Literature is one of society’s instruments of self-awareness”

-Italo Calvino-

“How your consciousness arranges the entire piece of theater called living into a series of paintings called recollection”

-William Olsen-

“Art creates I-distantness”

-Paul Celan-

“All translation is only a somewhat provisional way of coming to terms with the foreignness of languages”

-Walter Benjamin-

“Again and again I find myself saved, in words – helped, allowed, returned to possibility and hope.  In the dilemma of some literal context a way is found in the words which may speak of it”

-Robert Creeley-

“Poetry is one of the many positive possibilities of life”

-Eugenio Montale-

“the act of writing – that deflected relationship to life through which what is of no concern is asserted…

…telling is the torment of language, the incessant search for its infinity.”

-Maurice Blanchot-

“Art is the perception of the world by developed elements of presentation”

-Kharlampy Oroshakov-

“language presents the picture of a ceaseless flow of becoming”

-V.N. Volosinov-

“A work of literature might be defined as an operation carried out in the written language and involving several layers of reality at the same time”

-Italo Calvino-

“It is only enough

To live incessantly in change”

-Wallace Stevens-

“merely say something that can be murmured in the ear of a drunkard or a dying man”

-E.M. Cioran-

“Words stare you in the face from the text, and that is enough;

and as Wittgenstein said, a word in company may be said to have a physiognomy”

-J.R. Firth-

“the greatest art seems secreted, not constructed”

-Susan Sontag-

“All art deconditions us so that we may respond more fully to experience”

-Ronald Sukenick-

“our reality is merely one of many descriptions”

-Carlos Castaneda-

“How extraordinary to try and write oneself free.  To live inside the language, the lifelong motion toward original expression.  What an extraordinary way to spend one’s little time here”

-Carole Maso-

“I still have to content myself with storytelling, admitting to failure and renunciation”

-Jacques Derrida-

“we exist, we write, only ‘for’ this staggering spillage of meaning”

-Jean-Luc Nancy-

“Experience is much broader than reality”

-Ronald Sukenick-

“It may be that to understand ourselves as fictions is to understand ourselves as fully as we can”

-Jeannette Winterson-

“A poet’s words are of things that do not exist without the words”

-Wallace Stevens-

“the centers of so many worlds rest in one another’s context”

-Jesse Ball-

“isn’t storytelling always a way of searching for one’s origin?”

-Roland Barthes-

“to tell a story is a mysterious thing”

-Maurice Blanchot-

“out of nothing comes language and out of language comes nothing and everything.

I know there will be stories.  Certainly, there will always be stories”

-Lynne Tillman-

“Connection is the recognition of the intimacy of a division…

to make a division is to give substance form”

-Madeline Gins-

“Poems are: something inside names that make us think we hear the thing that isn’t said”

-Helene Cixous-

“it is only enough to live incessantly in change”

-Wallace Stevens-

“The concept of a work which can resist time consequently becomes more anachronistic every day:

the work must burn itself out at the moment when it is required and enjoyed by its so-called user”

-Eugenio Montale-

“the act of writing – that deflected relationship to life through which what is of no concern is asserted…telling is the torment of language, the incessant search for its infinity”

-Maurice Blanchot-

“the rowdy idea that our minds are unable to grasp why those neural crackles and snaps observed from the outside should give rise to the impression of subjective experience from the inside”

-Lance Olsen-

“Each instant of your journey will be a struggle to see better what you will never see”

-Helene Cixous-

“Failure reseeds the ground”

-Charles Wright-

“The potential in us and the extraordinary, awesome potentials still asleep in the language”

-Carole Maso-

“With all that I have put down on paper, what irks me is what I have not been able to formulate.  As if these undisclosed things were all I had to express.”

-Edmond Jabes-

“If you don’t use your own imagination, somebody else is going to use it for you”

-Ronald Sukenick-

“the novel, or rather the new sensibility, ‘novelness’ – is by its very nature forever iconoclastic, forever questing – it is formally as incomplete as the world it depicts”

-Katerina Clark / Michael Holquist-

“The pleasure of accumulated meanings, of accretion, which is the narrative act.  A fragile constellation, through time and space, of relationship.  An architecture of stars, of -“

-Carole Maso-

“The aim of art is to prepare a person for death, to plough and harrow his soul, rendering it capable of turning to good”

-Andrei Tarkovsky-

“Language is like drinking from one’s own reflection in still water.

We only take from it what we are at that time”

-Simon van Booy-

“the irresistible compulsion to seek the tiny spark of accident, the here and now”

Walter Benjamin-

“writing – the best extension of thought we have, the most direct way of deepening the process of thinking”

-Ronald Sukenick-

“the suffering of being: that is, the free play of every faculty”

-Samuel Beckett-

“language owes its existence and identity to what it can never be, to what it can only point at…

the sound of language is the very embodiment of desire”

-Simon van Booy-

“we always envision as we see”

-Mary Price-

“our verbal definitions are only good so long as we do not have to think just what they mean”

-William Ivins, Jr.-

“Sometimes all we form is an almost…a story always tells another story”

-Helene Cixous-

“because all of us fictionalize our lives and the lives of others who have a part in our story”

-Mary Price-

“I consider fiction the main reality-making art”

-Ronald Sukenick-

“Zeno, pressed as to whether anything is at rest, replied:

‘Yes, the flying arrow rests'”

-Franz Kafka-

“Only in the stream of thought and life do words have meaning”

-Ludwig Wittgenstein-

“we would have very little if we only had words.  What we need are the presences that words leave in dotted lines in their  mysterious intervals, and that words in themselves cannot restore to life”

-Yves Bonnefoy-

“I am fascinated by the way in which lapse, or the lack of deliberation, creates future practice, constitutes life”

-Joshua Cohen-

“Strange the way the joy keeps changing”

-Carole Maso-

“Literature is a search for the book hidden in the distance that alters the value and meaning of the known books;  it is the pull toward the new apocryphal text still to be rediscovered or invented”

-Italo Calvino-

“our manner of appearing is our manner of being.  The mask is the face”

-Susan Sontag-

“the way memory tries ‘recoil,’ or ‘recommend,’ or ‘record,’ coming as close as ‘recoup,’ but never alighting on its real object, ‘recover.'”

-Richard Powers-

“Thinking itself is a vast and undependable affair…intellect gobbles up everything around it, and as soon as it lays hold of the feelings, it becomes spirit.  Taking this step is the task of writers.”

-Robert Musil-

“Yes, but basically what is clear and what is obscure in words?  They all seem so transparent but what are they vainly trying to say?”

-Gianni Celati-

“Language is as it is because of what it has to do”

-M.A.K. Halliday-

“The truth is like a slippery fish escaping from your hands”

-Robert Frank-

“I tend to think the fragment is our way of apprehending not just the infinite, but anything at all.  Our inclusive views are all mosaics.  The shards catch light on the cut, the edges give off sparks.”

-Rosemarie Waldrop-

“our richness is that we are composite beings.  Breaking down walls does not lead to oneness…it leads to the recognition of composite selves, composite tongues…the recognition of the stranger even in those one loves, or is”

-Helene Cixous-

I’ll problematize you if you’ll problematize me”

-Madeline Gins-

“The design of our being is traced out in and by language”

-Christopher Fynsk-

“the strange experience of reading, the sense of harmony between the rhythms of a reproduction and the real, their structural identity, so that the subject of the sentence was precisely the time of its being furthered”

-Ben Lerner (oh! to write just that way!)

Open Matter.  Create Work.

-Lao Tzu

“Language must not be used as a means but must be experienced, suffered”

– Franz Kafka

“language is alphabet in disorder”

-Gertrude Stein

“because if you once say something, it will lead you to say more than you had meant to”

-Robert Creeley

“we are playing with things that disappear…we are struggling with fleeting moments where relationships are in flux”

-Henri Cartier-Bresson

“the writer writes a book to try and find out why one wanted to write it”

-Alain Robbe-Grillet

“using language to examine language creates the same confusion as rubbing one finger against the other to cure an itch:  none but the sufferer knows which finger itches and which scratches”

-Robert Steiner


-Wallace Stevens

10 thoughts on “Quotes / Sources

  1. excelsizeus

    “The problem of storytelling is how to make transitions into transformations, since the former belong to logic, sincerity, and boredom ( that is, real time, the trudge of “and then”) and the latter belong to art.”

    Leonard Michaels

  2. Stuart

    Great collection of quotes!
    Here is another:
    “The beginning of thought is in disagreement – not only with others but also with ourselves.”
    ― Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind: And Other Aphorisms

"A word is a bridge thrown between myself and an other - a territory shared by both" - M. Bakhtin

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s