August 31/365 Loving Poetry

I’m worn out. How do poets do this? I mean real, working poets, the kind of people who every day labor away on lines that almost no one will ever read. The writers who shoot for that little corner of a page buried deep in The New Yorker. I have no more words that fit together after just a month of this, and that was even with my pulling old work out of my bag of tricks. Why would anyone decide to meet daily with the muse, to wrangle out such irksome lines, to face the constant debate of “Is that the right word, is that the right break?”

They must have no choice. Someone holds a gun to their head or their heart. I figure that the reason might just be that at some time, when they were very young, when the world was stretched out ahead of them, a thug name Elliot, or Browning, or Blake, or Dickinson took hold of them and a contract was signed. A soul exchanged.

I remember the poem that almost made that bargain with me. A particularly dangerous poet-bully, one Shakespeare held a knife to my throat. I would sit in the still, cold November dusk, when the sky over the Hudson turned that impossible violet-blue, and recite these perfect words to myself. Nothing quite spoke to me, even as young and unschooled as I was, as this particular poem.

Sonnet 73

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.



3 thoughts on “August 31/365 Loving Poetry

    • You are kind. But I’m going to hold my ground on this one. I don’t work at it, haven’t given it the time, the blood required, as others have. I recently looked up some shining lights from my graduate program, and found that Gary Worth Moody has continued to labor day in and out at his poetry. I read an interview with him (, where he speaks of attention to the craft that I cannot touch, at least not at this point. (Of course, I may be being neoclassical and condescending right now! And I may be falling for a totally out-of-date definition of artist! Who knows?)


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