Arnold Schnabel published this sonnet without fanfare in the July 6 1963 issue of the Olney Times, where it went completely unnoticed by the critical and academic establishment, only to rise up again in 1978 when Sid Vicious declared it his favorite poem. Frequently anthologized, Harold Bloom has called the poem a "companion piece to 'Abandoned'" and I would agree; but it works perhaps even more powerfully considered by itself, preferably at 4 AM, in that hour when consciousness teeters precariously on that rusty razor's edge between despair and madness. Republished thanks to the continuing generosity of the Arnold Schnabel Society.
People often ask me, “Where do you get
Your inspiration from, a brand new poem
Every week, fifty-two weeks a year yet?”
It’s really not so hard, or so I tell them,
Not so hard at all once the poet learns
That no one really cares how well he writes,
That it doesn’t matter if his spirit burns
Or hides like a dog through Byzantine nights;
This poet is incapable of writing well
Anyway, but even if he were, it still
Wouldn’t matter; very few of us can tell
The difference between ambrosia and swill.
And that’s okay; now he is ready to sing.
Nothing stands in his way; not a thing.
(For links to many other inspiring Arnold Schnabel poems, and to his previously unpublished memoirs Railroad Train to Heaven, please see the right hand column of this page.)
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