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Q is for Quotations

April 21, 2015

UnknownI have always collected quotes I liked.  In college, I had a little notebook full of them (and I could probably still find it today if I dug through boxes.  What speaks to me at one point in my life may not have the same impact later, so these collections may serve as a concentrated journal as well.


This “quote” from Abraham Lincoln that made a run on Facebook is a favorite, since I’m always finding misquotes online.  The absolute best source, of course, is Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. It’s chronological, exhaustive, and organized like a Bible’s concordance.

Today, I just want to share a few of my favorite quotations (a distinction that could change quickly. Enjoy them while you can.)

Naturally, two of my favorite relate to a sense of humor:

“Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can: all of them make me laugh.” –W. H. Auden

William James wrote, “Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing.”

This one always makes me smile, even though I don’t usually want to run away from home:

“You show me a woman who hasn’t fantasized getting in a car and leaving home and I’ll show you a woman who doesn’t drive.” –Susan Sussman

My favorite quote about poetry comes from William Carlos Williams: “It is difficult to get the news from poems / yet men die miserably every day for lack / of what is found there.”

My recent reading (particularly Maureen Corrigan’s So We Read On) has me thinking of the Fitzgeralds–Scott and Zelda.  He’s credited with this, though the “Zelda camp” may believe it was cribbed from her journals:  “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” I always refer to this quotation when I teach argument, since I firmly believe that when one looks at both sides of an argument, it usually becomes clear that there are more than two sides.

An anonymous African proverb forms the title of what I hope will be my next poetry book, Rescuing Libraries: “When an old man dies, a library burns down.”

The next two express similar sentiments:

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” —Nelson Henderson

“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.” Anonymous

Anyone who knows me well knows how much I love story, so this one strikes my fancy:

Rudyard Kipling said, “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”

Along the same lines, Thomas Hardy said, “If Galileo had said in verse that the world moved, the inquisition might have let him alone.”

Finally, one that motivates me that I have passed along to students for years: “There are always two choices. Two paths to take. One is easy. And its only reward is that it’s easy.”  Anonymous

Maybe I should end with one from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “I hate quotations.  Tell me what you know.”

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