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For our final day of poetry, a sneak preview from John Hollander's new collection, A Draft of Light, coming out in May. This New York City poem speaks to the accidental nature of poetic inspiration and reminds us to remain open to the gifts of the muse, wherever we stumble across them. We hope you've enjoyed April's offerings as much as we have enjoyed sending them your way.

Being Stung By A Bee on the Lexington Avenue Local

Ouch! etcetera
Aside, and then likewise the
Conclusion that I

Had indeed not been
Stabbed in the left shoulder with
A knitting needle

By some demented
Wretch whose misery I'd be

Too angry to spare
Any real sympathy for
(Though I knew too well

Life had undone so
Many) sitting in the jammed
Car heading uptown

Through the acutely
Nonrural subway tunnel:
Said conclusion drawn

From a subsequent
Nonmechanical humming
In my ear accompanied

By an actual glimpse
Of the creature who would not
Live long buzzing off,

As it were and as
A matter of fact as well—
What some idiot

Of the literal
Might mean by rus in urbe...
All of those aside,

It was only weeks
After that I realized
That the very (most

Nonliteral) point
Of the sting was that the thought
Buzzed through my mind some

Days later that I
Was as one who, once stung by
A gold-banded

Bee in a fable,
Might have thereupon acquired
As a gift—not from

Apollo himself,
But from one of his nine girls—
A peculiar kind

Of wisdom: but of
Which sort, and from which of them—
Which of the Muses—

Let alone what tied
That bunch to that misplaced bee
(Poor lost bee! I had

No anger for her
As I might have had for the
Knitting-needle nut)

And what deep cosmic
Questions had hung on this I
Could not imagine.

But although with no
Gift nor Muses nor indeed
An available

Apollo, I would
Come to conclude that even
The subsequent brief

Sting of the sudden
Awareness of them and their
Moot irrelevance

Was as much of a
Gift from those nine sisters as
Is ever given.



About John Hollander

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Excerpt from A DRAFT OF LIGHT. Copyright © 2008 by John Hollander. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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