"In Emily Dickinson's much-cited touchstone for a poem, she feels 'physically as if the top of my head were taken off.' A.E. Housman applies a bristling skin test to poetry, another famous example of a physical criterion for the efficacy of a poem. Goosebumps and decapitation are not the whole story, though. The physical aspect is the one that's easiest to be sure about - it registers on your pulse rate, after all, and is the one that's least embarrassing to talk about. But the deepest reactions to a great poem will - pace Emily Dickinson - actually be over the top.
I know I am in the grip of a true poem when I can hardly bear to read it calmly at first, so all-embracing and far-reaching is its instantaneous effect on me. I realise I am about to meet with psychic turbulence..."
---Irish poet Dennis O'Driscoll, as interviewed at Ready, Steady, Book
With thanks to J. Patrick Lewis, who recommended Driscoll's book, Quote Poet Unquote: Contemporary Quotations on Poets and Poetry, to me.
This post is part of a month-long celebration of not-quite-daily quotes about poets, poems, and poetry. For more quotes, see the archive of the Poetry Quote of the Day. There are many more National Poetry Month celebrations across the Kidlitosphere.