I knew a man who judged himself with such
inclemency that he pronounced each move
he made—in retrospect—either too much
or not enough. What did he need to prove,
to no one but himself? What made him so
harsh with himself when others found him better—
no, best—at everything? We’ll never know.
Grave childhood losses, maybe, dark regret, or
massive ambition thwarted, though he made
himself a name revered, and rose to be
eminent in his field, and richly paid.
And noted for his poems, in which he
hinted at failure with such rare success
that every “no” he wept for sang like “yes.”

Read an interview with the poet.