Forthright Quotes by Katherine Anne Porter

Katherine Anne Porter

Katherine Anne Porter (1890 –  1980), the American author and journalist, made a name for herself with  her short stories and her magnum opus novel Ship of Fools (1962).

“My life has been incredible, I don’t believe a word of it.” That’s a famous quote that reflects a penchant for self-invention. She was considered somewhat flamboyant by some; unknowable by others. 

Porter often took many years to accomplish her literary goals;  writing was a way to face questions encountered in her own life. Her writing voice was rooted in realism and a sense of passion. Here are some forthright quotes by Katherine Anne Porter, who was never shied away from speaking her own truth.


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“Most people won’t realize that writing is a craft. You have to take your apprenticeship in it like anything else.”

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“The past is never where you think you left it.”

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“Death always leaves one singer in mourn.” (Pale Horse, Pale Rider, 1939)

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“If I didn’t know the ending of a story, I wouldn’t begin. I always write my last lines, my last paragraph first, and then I go back and work towards it. I know where I’m going. I know what my goal is. And how I get there is God’s grace.”

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“I get so tired of moral bookkeeping.”

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“The road to death is a long march beset with all evils, and the heart fails little by little at each new terror, the bones rebel at each step, the mind sets up its own bitter resistance and to what end? The barriers sink one by one, and no covering of the eyes shuts out the landscape of disaster, nor the sight of crimes committed there.” (Pale Horse, Pale Rider, 1939)

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Katherine Anne Porter quote

More about Katherine Anne Porter

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“Now I am all for human life, and I am all for marriage and children and all that sort of thing, but quite often you can’t have that and do what you were supposed to do, too.”

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“A story is like something you wind out of yourself. Like a spider, it is a web you weave, and you love your story like a child.”

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“There seems to be a kind of order in the universe…in the movement of the stars and the turning of the Earth and the changing of the seasons. But human life itself may be almost pure chaos, but the work of the artist is to take these handfuls of confusion and disparate things, things that seem to be irreconcilable, and put them together in a frame to give them some kind of shape and meaning.”

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“I finished the thing, but I think I sprained my soul. I spent 15 years wandering about, weighed horribly with masses of paper and little else. Yet for this vocation of writing I was and am willing to die, and I consider very few things of the slightest importance.” (Ship of Fools, 1890)

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“A novel is really life a symphony where instrument after instrument has to come in at its own time.”

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“In spite of all the poetry, all the philosophy to the contrary, we are not really masters of our fate.”

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“One of the marks of a gift is to is to have the courage of it.”

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katherine ann porter

6 Quick Writing Tips from Katherine Anne Porter

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“The real sin against life is to abuse and destroy beauty, even one’s own — even more, one’s own, for that has been put in our care and we are responsible for its well-being.”

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“…with the most infinite tenderness I have ever known in my life, he put his arms around me, gently, gently, and I embraced him around the neck, and we touched…” 

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“Adventure is something you seek for pleasure or even for profit … but experience is what really happens to you in the long run, the truth that finally overtakes you.”

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“I shall try to tell the truth, but the result will be fiction.”

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“Everyone takes his stance, asserts his own right and feelings, mistaking the motives of others, and his own.”

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“Love must be learned and learned again; There is no end.”

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“Trust your happiness and the richness of your life at this moment. It is as true and as much yours as anything else that ever happened to you.” (Letters of Katherine Anne Porter, 1990)

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“God does not know whether a skin is black or white, He only sees souls.” (The Collected Stories, 1965)

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“You waste life when you waste good food.” (The Collected Stories, 1965)

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“The whole effort for the past one hundred years has been to remove the moral responsibility from the individual and make him blame his own human wickedness on his society, but he helps to make his society, you see, and he will not take his responsibility for his part in it.” (Katherine Anne Porter Conversations, 1987)

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Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter

Katherine Anne Porter page on Amazon

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“The thought of him was a smoky cloud from hell that moved and crept in her head.” (The Collected Stories, 1965)

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“All the old houses that I knew when I was a child were full of books, bought generation after generation by members of the family. Everyone was literate as a matter of course. Nobody told you to read this or not to read that. It was there to read, and we read.” 

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“Could she fall so low? No, there were limits, and she believed she still knew where some of them were.” (Ship of Fools, 1962)

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“It is a simple truth that the human mind can face better the most oppressive government, the most rigid restrictions, than the awful prospect of a lawless, frontierless world. Freedom is a dangerous intoxicant and very few people can tolerate it in any quantity; it brings out the old raiding, oppressing, murderous instincts; the rage for revenge, for power, the lust for bloodshed.

The longing for freedom takes the form of crushing the enemy — there is always the enemy! — into the earth; and where and who is the enemy if there is no visible establishment to attack, to destroy with blood and fire? Remember all that oratory when freedom is threatened again. Freedom, remember, is not the same as liberty.” (The Never-Ending Wrong, 1977)

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 “Don’t you love weather and the colors at different times of the day, and all the sounds and noises like children screaming in the next lot, and automobile horns and little bands playing in the street and the smell of food cooking?” (Pale Horse, Pale Rider, 1939)

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