On Crossing the River
Every writer has a date with the dead. There comes a time when each of us––psychologically, poetically––must enter the Stygian realm and cross the dark river, leaving the solid realm of the living behind, going down into the mournful land of the shades. It happens somewhere in the middle of your life. I can tell you, the air is thick and the ghosts swarm. Smoke burns your eyes; the stench is terrible. Voices cry out, as if from nowhere, and fade away. Death has undone so many. This place, if you can call it a place, is unspeakable, mute. It is below or beyond words. I wish this journey on no one. I wish luck to anyone who sails forth, who navigates the black waters; I hope you find your way back.
-from Edward Hirsch, "Summoning Shades," The Poets' Dante: Twentieth Century Responses (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001), Edited by Peter S. Hawkins and Rachel Jacoff, p. 395