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By practice skill is got, by practice wit is won.
—George Turberville

On being asked by a young friend of mine
The surest way to make himself an author,
I said he ought to read line after line
Of dense and brilliant books; taking the “bother”
To memorize their tricks and ticks, the ways
Meaning may pullulate out of a phrase.

And with one reservation, then, I said,
He should with grinding toil fill blank books.
Writing is difficult; the words fall dead
Sometimes. The mind must learn to overlook
That pain. “Strike words till they spark like a match—
Then, spike a page to keep yourself detached.”

I said all that, but thought of Sidney’s muse,
Who counseled him where all true poems start:
Not in the scrawl of sheets or their abuse,
But in the blinding mystery of the heart.
Love is to language as maternal seed,
And dies itself to see its creature bleed.

—James Matthew Wilson

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