Wednesdays with Words: Hanging Around Words

Another quote I collected from convention, this one referred to by Dr. Perrin in his talk on Latin.  It fits beautifully with Wednesdays with Words and the idea Cindy originally began the linkup with … loving words and the fascinating ways they can be put together.  I’m not saying loving words makes one a poet by quoting this story, but I do love the idea of “hanging around words.”

Dr. Perrin referenced a quote and I googled it.

This version of the story is from WH Auden as quoted by John Chaffee in his book Critical Thinking, Thoughtful Writing.

Auden even went so far as to say that he could pick out a potential poet by a student’s answer to the question, “Why do you want to write poetry?” If the student answered, “I have important things to say,” then he was not a poet. If he answered, “I like hanging around words listening to what they say.” Then maybe he was going to be a poet.

I like how he still qualifies that maybe a lover of words will be a poet, but it isn’t for certain. I do like words and how they fit together, though generally as prose.  I do admire poets and the idea of the importance of poetry, even when I don’t understand it.



  1. Yes, I love that quote too! I first discovered it in John Ciardi's How Does a Poem Mean which Cindy Rollins recommended a couple of years ago. It really rings true for us bookish people. 🙂

    1. Ah! That is a much better -more likely- source for the quote to be rousted from! Especially, Dr Perrin whose wife is a poet. That is one of those books perpetually on my someday reading list. Thanks, Heather!

    2. I've been reading How Does a Poem Mean? this month, so I recognized the story right away, but I'd forgotten Ciardi was telling Auden's story. Fun.

  2. I loved that Auden quote too, although I hadn't tracked it down. "Hanging around with words" is one way I'd describe my life – but I wouldn't consider myself a poet. (I have dabbled in it, on occasion, when inspiration strikes.)

    1. It has been years and years since I tried any poetry (high school to be exact), but I do love a well turned phrase.

      I thought you might have caught it since we were in the same session.

  3. I what other people can do with words, though I struggle to do that myself. I prefer prose, but keep reading poetry with my kids hoping that it will some day speak to me (or them.)

  4. I love this quote- reminded me of my daughter, Patricia. I keep hoping that by listening & memorizing poetry, one of my children will pick up on writing it. One day, I hope to use the poetry curriculum / book Perrin sells.

    1. Mgirl is my poetry lover so far. I love MCT's poetry materials as they're visually engaging enhancing the words. She loved that.

  5. I fell in love with poetry in my late teens when I discovered an anthology called "A Sacrifice of Praise" edited by James H. Trott. I think you might like it. 🙂 I have no ambitions for my children to write poetry (I'll be quite impressed if they do), but hope they find the same joy in it that I do.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation. Yes, that finding joy is where M-girl is now (sometimes, depending) R-girl attempted a poem at the museum on Friday, I love her enthusiasm!

  6. I have a couple of ANZAC Day poems in my link up. Incredible to think that a young man of 23 yrs of age was writing poetry in the middle of the Gallipoli campaign.

    1. It amazes me the poetry that came out of that era and the trenches of WWI. The men who were shaped before and by that event had so much to say. Thanks for sharing!

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