Mol (mollyringle) wrote,

Little rave: Billy Collins

I am a noob, a tard, a dork, and several other terms for "ignorant beginner" when it comes to poetry. I was totally lost when we read T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" in college. ("That was about abortion? Huh? How? ...Ohhh. OK, I see now. I guess.") (However, I did memorize those few lines about April being the cruellest month, because I liked them.)

So it rather surprised me when I found I actually "get" and enjoy the poetry of Billy Collins, an actual former Poet Laureate of the U.S. My sister Kate gave me a CD of him reading some of his stuff, and it tickled my fancy enough to make me look up more. I think what I like best is that he is good at poking gentle fun at poetry itself. In that vein, I share with you now...

Litany, by Billy Collins

You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine...
-Jacques Crickillon

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general's head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman's tea cup.
But don't worry, I'm not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and--somehow--the wine.


He had me at "There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air."

If you want more, there are a bunch posted here. I also recommend Marginalia, a poem about writing stuff in margins. It contains the great stanza:

And if you have managed to graduate from college
without ever having written "Man vs. Nature"
in a margin, perhaps now
is the time to take one step forward.
Goodnight, and happy spring equinox!
Tags: beauty, books, funny, writing

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