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What Does It Take to Write a Great Poem?

A river running through it?

Eyes watching God?
The sun also rising?

A hundred years of solitude?
Love in the time of cholera?

Will tenderness in the night suffice?
Or must one resort to sound and fury?

I hope not.
Call me a quiet man,
even an invisible one.
Look through me all you want,
so long as you see the poem,
the poem I’ll write for everyman,
as I lay dying,
under a rainbow.

Someone I know advises against great expectations,
says I’ll never amount to more than a handful of dust.
But I say, were music my muse instead of poetry,
I would want to write a moonlight sonata,
or at least a rhapsody in blue.

I’m no music man.
Poetry will be my deliverance
from the heart of darkness that seeks me
even at noon.

Go tell it on the mountain that this native son,
this Studs Lonigan,
this good soldier from Winesburg, Ohio,
though he be held in human bondage,
though he be subject to pale fire,
though he go, finally, the way of all flesh,
will keep asking his question:

What does it take to write a great poem?

Ed Sadtler



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