"A painter's idea must not be considered independently of his technique, for the idea matters only to the extent that it is embodied in the technique, which must be the more advanced the more the idea is profound."

—Henri Matisse

"If anything can be said in prose, then poetry should be saved for saying nothing." 

—Pierre Albert-Birot (From the introduction to the anthology, Text-Sound Texts, edited by Richard Kostelanetz.) 

"I feel that poetry is the completely personal expression of someone about his feelings and reactions to the world.  I think it is only interesting in proportion to how interesting the person who writes it is."

—Diane Wakoski

" . . . it will not be regarded as a breach of decorum on my part to show the modus operandi by which some one of my own works was put together.  I select 'The Raven,' as most generally known.  It is my design to render it manifest that no one point in its composition is referrible either to accident or intuition—that the work proceeded, step by step, to its completion with the precision and rigid consequence of a mathematical problem."

—Poe ("The Philosophy of Composition," 1846.)

"The words we call expressions of aesthetic judgement play a very complicated rôle, but a very definite rôle, in what we call a culture of a period.  To describe their use or to describe what you mean by a cultured taste, you have to describe a culture.  What we now call a cultured taste perhaps didn't exist in the Middle Ages.  An entirely different game is played in different ages."

—Wittgenstein (Lectures & Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief (25).  Ed. Cyril Barrett.)

"We can only say that it appears likely that poets in our civilization, as it exists at present, must be difficult.  Our civilization comprehends great variety and complexity, and this variety and complexity, playing upon a refined sensibility, must produce various and complex results.  The poet must become more and more comprehensive, more allusive, more indirect, in order to force, to dislocate if necessary, language into his meaning."  G. V. St. Thomasino

—T. S. Eliot

"One of the great practical uses of the literary disciplines, of course, is to resist glibness—to slow language down and make it thoughtful.   This accounts, particularly, for the influence of verse, in its formal aspect, within the dynamics of the growth of language: verse checks the merely impulsive flow of speech, subjects it to another pulse, to measure, to extralinguistic consideration; by inducing the hesitations of difficulty, it admits into language the influence of the Muse and of musing."

—Wendell Berry  ("Standing By Words.")

"The public demands that a work transport it elsewhere, whereas cubism claims to fix the reader's mind on the work as with a pin."

—Pierre Reverdy (Le Gant de crin.  Quoted in The Cubist Poets in Paris.  Ed. L. C. Breunig.  Tr. L. C. Breunig.)

"The guiding law of the great variations in painting is one of disturbing simplicity.  First things are painted; then, sensations; finally, ideas.  This means that in the beginning the artist's attention was fixed on external reality; then, on the subjective; finally, on the intrasubjective.  These three stages are three points on a straight line."

—José Ortega y Gasset ("On Point of View in the Arts," 1949.  Trs. P. Snodgress & J. Frank.)

"When I was in America I for the first time travelled pretty much all the time in an airplane and when I looked at the earth I saw all the lines of cubism made at a time when not any painter had ever gone up in an airplane.  I saw there on the earth the mingling lines of Picasso, coming and going, developing and destroying themselves, I saw the simple solutions of Braque, I saw the wandering lines of Masson, yes I saw and once more I knew that a creator is contemporary, he understands what is contemporary when the contemporaries do not yet know it, but he is contemporary and as the twentieth century is a century which sees the earth as no one has ever seen it, the earth has a splendor that it never has had, and as everything destroys itself in the twentieth century and nothing continues, so then the twentieth century has a splendor which is its own and Picasso is of this century, he has that strange quality of an earth that one has never seen and of things destroyed as they have never been destroyed.  So then Picasso has his splendor."  Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino

—Gertrude Stein (Picasso, 1938.)

"I wonder, whether, if I had had any education I should have been more, or less, of a fool than I am.  It would have deprived me surely of those exquisite moments of mental flatulence which every now and then inflate the cerebral vacuum with a delicious sense of latent possibilities—of stretching oneself to cosmic limits, and who would ever give up the reality of dreams for relative knowledge?"

—Alice James (The Diary of Alice James.)

"We philosophize out of need for our redemption." 


"Simplifying to the extreme, I define postmodern as incredulity toward metanarratives. . . .  To the obsolescence of the metanarrative apparatus of legitimation corresponds, most notably, the crisis of metaphysical philosophy. . . ."

—Jean-François Lyotard (Trs. G. Bennington & B. Massumi.)

"The first study for the man who wants to be a poet is to know himself, completely.  He must search for his soul, scrutinize it, learn to know it.  As soon as he knows it, he must cultivate it. . . .  He must, I say, be a seer; he must make himself a seer.   The poet makes himself a seer by a long, intensive, and reasoned disordering of all the senses.  Every kind of love, of suffering, of madness; he looks within himself, he devours all the poisons in him, keeping only their essences.  Unspeakable torture in which he needs all his faith and superhuman strength, the great criminal, the great diseased, the utterly damned, and the supreme wise man!  For he reaches the unknown!  Since he has cultivated his soul, richer to begin with than any of the others!  He reaches the unknown; and even if at last, half demented, he ceases to understand his visions, he has seen them!  Let him die in his leap into these unutterable, numberless things; other accursed poets will come and will begin at the boundaries where he has left off. . . .  So, then, the poet is truly a stealer of fire.  Humanity is his responsibility, the animals too; he must take care that his inventions can be smelled, felt, heard.  If what he brings back has form, he gives it form; if it is without form, he has made it so.  A language must be discovered; indeed, every word being an idea, the day of a universal language will come!  One has to be an academician—deader than a fossil—to finish a dictionary of any language. . . ."

—Rimbaud (Letter to Paul Demeny, May 15, 1871.  Tr. Roland N. Stromberg.)

"Can the meaning of a precise moment appear all at once? It need hardly be pointed out: only the succession of moments can become clear. One moment has meaning only in its relation to other moments. We are at each instance only fragments deprived of meaning if we do not relate these fragments to other fragments. How can we refer to this completed whole?"

—Georges Bataille (The Tears of Eros. Tr. Peter Connor.)



"Man, who is an organic continuation of the Logos, thinks he can sever that continuity and exist apart from it." (64) "All men are equally mystified by unaccountable evidence, . . ." (92) "One cannot step twice into the same river, for the water into which you first stepped has flowed on." (21)

—Herakleitos (Tr. Guy Davenport.)

"Discourse is like a river."

—Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino

"Light falls into a room in the form of the opening through which it enters."

—Lou Andreas-Salomé

"What is perfect teaches hope."


"Jacques' Dilemma" © 1993 by Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino



"Speech, as an object of outer experience, is obviously nothing more than a very complete telegraph which communicates arbitrary signs with the greatest rapidity and the finest distinctions of difference. . . . The meaning of a speech is, as a rule, immediately grasped, accurately and distinctly taken in, without the imagination being brought into play. It is reason which speaks to reason, keeping within its own province."

—Schopenhauer (The World as Will and Idea. Trs. R. B. Haldane & J. Kemp.)

"I began to play with words then. I was a little obsessed by words of equal value. Picasso was painting my portrait at that time, and he and I used to talk this thing over endlessly. At this time he had just begun on cubism. . . . I took individual words and thought about them until I got their weight and volume complete and put them next to another word, and at this same time I found out very soon that there is no such thing as putting them together without sense. I made innumerable efforts to make words write without sense and found it impossible. Any human being putting down words had to make sense out of them. . . . It should create a satisfaction in the mind of the reader but in the same image as the creation."

—Gertrude Stein ("A Transatlantic Interview—1946," in A Primer for the Gradual Understanding of Gertrude Stein. Ed. Robert Bartlett Haas.)

"I believe deeply in the genius of painting, which parallels that of childhood.  I've used painting as a language without really having decided to do so, because it suits me better than writing.  Writing tries to be too explicit and go directly to a meaning. . . .  For me, writing can only be in the ellipses, where I express myself. . . ." 

—Balthus (Vanished Splendors.

"No Muse-poet grows conscious of the Muse except by experience of a woman in whom the Goddess is to some degree resident; just as no Apollonian poet can perform his proper function unless he lives under a monarchy or a quasi-monarchy.  A Muse-poet falls in love, absolutely, and his true love is for him the embodiment of the Muse. . . .  But the real, perpetually obsessed Muse-poet distinguishes between the Goddess as manifest in the supreme power, glory, wisdom and love of woman, and the individual woman whom the Goddess may make her instrument. . . .  The Goddess abides; and perhaps he will again have knowledge of her through his experience of another woman. . . .  Being in love does not, and should not, blind the poet to the cruel side of woman's nature—and many Muse-poems are written in helpless attestation of this by men whose love is no longer returned."

—Robert Graves (The White Goddess, A historical grammar of poetic myth.)

"Das Ewig-Weibliche Zieht uns hinan."

—Goethe (Faust)

"One may give up the desire to control sound, clear his mind of music, and set about discovering means to let sounds be themselves rather than vehicles for man-made theories or expressions of human sentiments. . . . Just an attention to the activity of sounds. . . . Or, analogous to the Rorschach tests of psychology, the interpretation of imperfections in the paper upon which one is writing may provide a music free from one's memory and imagination. . . . It goes without saying that dissonances and noises are welcome in this new music. But so is the dominant seventh if it happens to put in an appearance."  Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino

—John Cage (Silence, 1973. Quoted in An Art of Our Own by Roger Lipsey.)

"The eternal silence of these infinite spaces fills me with dread."

—Pascal (Pensées (201). Tr. A. J. Krailsheimer.)




"Untitled" © 1993 by Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino


"Moreover, such an understanding of intertextuality—one that points to a dynamics involving a destruction of the creative identity and reconstitution of a new plurality—assumes at the same time that the one who reads, the reader, participates in the same dynamics. If we are readers of intertextuality, we must be capable of the same putting-into-process of our identities, capable of identifying with the different types of texts, voices, and semantic, syntactic, and phonic systems at play in a given text. We also must be able to be reduced to zero, to the state of crisis that is perhaps the necessary precondition of aesthetic pleasure, to the point of speechlessness as Freud says, of the loss of meaning, before we can enter into a process of free association, reconstitution of diverse meanings, or kinds of connotations that are almost undefinable—a process that is a re-creation of the poetic text. . . . This is true for poetic texts, which are characterized by great condensation and great polysemia: . . . Yet this is also true for postmodernism, where the problem is to reconcile representation, the imposition of content, with the play of form—which is, I emphasize again, a play of psychic pluralization. And here, in postmodernism, the question of intertextuality is perhaps even more important in certain ways, because it assumes an interplay of contents and not of forms alone."

—Julia Kristeva (Julia Kristeva Interviews. Tr. Richard Macksey.)

"This text presents such difficulties—especially with its peculiarities of punctuation—that some critics have insisted that a 'regularized' text is needed. Yet I wonder. For Emily Dickinson's punctuation forces upon her reader the demand that he punctuate—i.e., modulate so as to achieve form and meaning—as he reads. Thus she makes the reader participate directly in making the poems and calls into play such powers of imagination as he has."

—Roy Harvey Pearce (The Continuity of American Poetry, 1961.)

"The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenaline but rather the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity."

—Glenn Gould

"The air is full of an infinite number of radiating straight lines, which cross and weave together without ever quite coinciding; it is these which represent the true form of every object's essence."

—Leonardo da Vinci


"Jacques' Dilemma" & "Untitled" © 1993, 2003 by Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino.



"You must never lose the awareness that in yourself you are nothing, you are only an instrument. An instrument is nothing until it is lifted."

—Kathryn Hulme

"Perhaps we may call the dream a façade, but we must remember that the fronts of most houses by no means trick or deceive us, but, on the contrary, follow the plan of the building and often betray its inner arrangement.   The 'manifest' dream-picture is the dream itself, and contains the 'latent' meaning. . . .  We say that the dream has a false front only because we fail to see into it.  We would do better to say that we are dealing with something like a text that is unintelligible, not because it has a façade, but simply because we cannot read it.  We do not have to get behind such a text in the first place, but must learn to read it."

"Art is a kind of innate drive that seizes a human being and makes him its instrument.  The artist is not a person endowed with free will who seeks his own ends, but one who allows art to realize its purposes through him.  As a human being he may have moods and a will and personal aims, but as an artist he is 'man' in a higher sense—he is 'collective man'—one who carries and shapes the unconscious, pyschic life of mankind.  To perform this difficult office it is sometimes necessary for him to sacrifice happiness and everything that makes life worth living for the ordinary human being." 

—C. G. Jung (from "Dream-Analysis in Its Practical Application" and "Psychology and Literature" in Modern Man in Search of a Soul.  Trs. W. S. Dell & C. F. Baynes.) 

"A poet is a penguin—his wings are to swim with."

—E. E. Cummings (I: Six Non-Lectures.

"Nothing is more bourgeois than to be afraid to look bourgeois."

—Tom Wolfe (The Painted Word.  Stated in regard to Andy Warhol.)

"Nothing conceivable is so petty, so insipid, so crowded with paltry interests—in one word, so anti-poetic—as the life of a man in the United States.  But among the thoughts which it suggests, there is always one that is full of poetry, and this is the hidden nerve which gives vigor to the whole frame. . . .  Among a democratic people poetry will not be fed with legends or the memorials of old traditions.  The poet will not attempt to people the universe with supernatural beings, in whom his readers and his own fancy have ceased to believe; nor will he coldly personify virtues and vices, which are better received under their own features.  All these resources fail him; but Man remains, and the poet needs no more."  Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino

—Alexis de Tocqueville (Democracy in America.  Tr. Francis Bowen.)

"Ingratitude is always a form of weakness.  I have never known a man of real ability to be ungrateful."


"One should quench arrogance rather than a conflagration."  (43)

—Herakleitos (Tr. Kathleen Freeman.)

"The fact is, Phaedrus, that writing involves a similar disadvantage to painting.  The productions of painting look like living beings, but if you ask them a question they maintain a solemn silence.  The same holds true of written words; you might suppose that they understand what they are saying, but if you ask them what they mean by anything they simply return the same answer over and over again.  Besides, once a thing is committed to writing it circulates equally among those who understand the subject and those who have no business with it; a writing cannot distinguish between suitable and unsuitable readers.  And if it is ill-treated or unfairly abused it always needs its parent to come to its rescue; it is quite incapable of defending or helping itself." 

—Plato  (Phaedrus.  Tr. Walter Hamilton.) 

"Since at least the time of Hegel, awareness has been growing that human consciousness evolves.  Although being human means being a person and thus being unique and induplicable, growth in historical knowledge has made it apparent that the way in which a person feels himself or herself in the cosmos has evolved in a patterned fashion over the ages.  Modern studies in the shift from orality to literacy, and the sequels of literacy—print and the electronic processing of verbalization—make more and more apparent some of the ways in which this evolution has depended on writing.  The evolution of consciousness through human history is marked by growth in articulate attention to the interior of the individual person as distanced—though not necessarily separated—from the communal structures in which each person is necessarily enveloped. . . .  In The Inward Turn of Narrative (1973) Erich Kahler has reported in detail the way in which narrative in the west becomes more and more preoccupied with and articulate about inner, personal crises.  The stages of consciousness described in a Jungian framework by Erich Neumann in The Origins and History of Consciousness (1954) move toward a self-conscious, articulate, highly personal, interiority.  The highly interiorized stages of consciousness, in which the individual is not so immersed unconsciously in communal structures, are stages which, it appears, consciousness would never reach without writing.  The interaction between the orality that all human beings are born into and the technology of writing, which no one is born into, touches the depths of the psyche.  Ontogenetically and phylogenetically, it is the oral word that first illuminates consciousness with articulate language, that first divides subject and predicate and then relates them to one another, and that ties human beings to one another in society.  Writing introduces division and alienation, but a higher unity as well.  It intensifies the sense of self and fosters more conscious interaction between persons.  Writing is consciousness-raising."  Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino

—Walter J. Ong  (Orality and Literacy.) 


the eratio quotations page is edited by gregory vincent st. thomasino.