Words matter. These are the best Alice Oswald Quotes, and they’re great for sharing with your friends.
At each moment, a poem might grow into a totally different shape. It is not so much like working in a garden. It is more as if you remade the garden every day.
There’s a lot of rage in my head. I like the friction that means there is nothing relaxing about writing a poem. I can’t afford to relax in any area of life. You have to keep your senses awake to all the complacency that kicks in – particularly for the English.
I think it’s often assumed that the role of poetry is to comfort, but for me, poetry is the great unsettler. It questions the established order of the mind. It is radical, by which I don’t mean that it is either leftwing or rightwing, but that it works at the roots of thinking.
I like Patti Smith’s lyrics, and sometimes think I could be influenced by them. But she has a kind of cool that’s beyond me.
I never meant to be a full-time poet: I started out as a gardener, an ideal job for a poet because your head is left free.
A living tree is a changing, sleeve shape, a wet, thin, bright green creature that survives in the thin layer between heartwood and bark. It stands waiting for light, which it catches in the close-woven sieves of its leaves.
It’s a question of trying to take down by dictation what’s already there. I’m not making something, I’m trying to hear it.
Spring, when the earth tilts closer to the sun, runs a strict timetable of flowers.
I hate not managing to speak clearly. I really hate it. I get a feeling of claustrophobia – like I’m locked in my own head – if what I’ve said hasn’t reached someone.
Wind ought to be a verb or an adverb. It isn’t really anything. It’s a manner of movement of warmth and cold: a kind of information system of the air.
I much preferred Latin to Greek. I loved the language being such a pattern that you could not shift a word without the whole sentence falling to pieces.
It’s a relief to hear the rain. It’s the sound of billions of drops, all equal, all equally committed to falling, like a sudden outbreak of democracy. Water, when it hits the ground, instantly becomes a puddle or rivulet or flood.
I believe the poet shouldn’t be in the poem at all except as a lens or as ears.
I’ve always felt, with ‘The Iliad,’ a real frustration that it’s read wrong. That it’s turned into this public school poem, which I don’t think it is. That glamorising of war, and white-limbed, flowing-haired Greek heroes – it’s become a cliched, British empire part of our culture.
Webs are made mostly of spaces. They break easily. They barely exist. They belong to the category of half-things: mist, smoke, shrouds, ghosts, membranes, retinas or rags; and they quickly fill up with un-things: old legs and wings and heads and hollow abdomens and body bags of wasps.
A dead tree, cut into planks and read from one end to the other, is a kind of line graph, with dates down one side and height along the other, as if trees, like mathematicians, had found a way of turning time into form.
To be a poet is as serious, long-term and natural as the effort to be the best human you can be. To express something well is not a question of having a top-class education and understanding poetic forms: rather, it’s a question of paying attention.
If you put a real leaf and a silk leaf side by side, you’ll see something of the difference between Homer’s poetry and anyone else’s. There seem to be real leaves still alive in the ‘Iliad,’ real animals, real people, real light attending everything.
When I was 16, I was taught by a wonderful teacher who let me ignore the Greek syllabus and just read Homer.
It’s the stickiness of earth that makes it problematic – the way it stains your straps and ingrains your hands so you can’t quite tell where you start and stop.
Stripped of its plot, the ‘Iliad’ is a scattering of names and biographies of ordinary soldiers: men who trip over their shields, lose their courage or miss their wives. In addition to these, there is a cast of anonymous people: the farmers, walkers, mothers, neighbours who inhabit its similes.
If you bend a branch until it’s horizontal, the sap will slow to a stopping point: a comma or colon, made of leaves grown into one another and over one another and hardened. Out of this pause comes a flower, which unfolds itself in spirals, as if the leaf form, unable to keep to its line, had begun to pivot.
When the wind blows through a wood, its mass is cut and closed by every leaf, forming a train of jittery vortices in the air.
People are so used to reading novels now, they just read a poem straight through to get the meaning. And that’s something totally different from the slow way you read something if it’s a tune; which to me a poem has to be.
There’s a whole range of words that people use about landscape. Pastoral? Idyll? I can’t stand them.