"I must write down that I am to be an artist. Not in the sense of aesthetic frippery, but in the sense of aesthetic craftsmanship; otherwise I will feel my loneliness continually--like this today. The word craftsmanship takes care of the work angle & the word aesthetic the truth angle. Angle. It will be a life struggle with no consummation. When something is finished, it cannot be possessed. Nothing can be possessed but the struggle. All our lives are consumed in possessing the struggle but only when the struggle is cherished & directed to a final consummation outside this life is it of any value. I want to be the best artist it is possible for me to be, under God."
"[This is] a time … when something awful is happening to a civilization, when it ceases to produce poets, and, what is even more crucial, when it ceases in any way whatever to believe in the report that only the poets can make. Conrad told us a long time ago…: 'Woe to that man who does not put his trust in life.' Henry James said, 'Live, live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.' And Shakespeare said — and this is what I take to be the truth about everybody’s life all of the time — 'Out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety.' Art is here to prove, and to help one bear, the fact that all safety is an illusion. In this sense, all artists are divorced from and even necessarily opposed to any system whatever."
"One of the greatest blessings conferred on our lives by the Arts is that they are our chief means of breaking bread with the dead, and I think that, without communication with the dead, a fully human life is not possible."
"This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal. I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge--even wisdom. Like art."
"If you find yourself thinking about something nonstop and noticing it everywhere, odds are you have something to say about it. Or at least a question to ask about it. And maybe you should be finding a way to communicate that to the world."
"Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced."
"The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something."
"Art is the only way to run away without leaving home."
“I believe that each work of art, whether it is a work of great genius or something very small, comes to the artist and says, "Here I am. Enflesh me. Give birth to me." And the artist either says, "My soul doth magnify the Lord," and willingly becomes the bearer of the work, or refuses.”
"I believe that the justification of art is the internal combustion it ignites in the hearts of men and not its shallow, externalized, public manifestations. The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenaline but is, rather, the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity."
"Art is a habit-forming drug."
“Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.”
"If you want to work on your art, work on your life."