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Thursday, October 09, 2014

Poetry Friday--Billy Collins

Last Friday The Washington Post published an interview, "Billy Collins on Life, Death, and Poetry." I particularly like this,
Poetry can do a lot of things to people. I mean it can improve your imagination. It can take you to new places. It can give you this incredible form of verbal pleasure. But leadership to me suggests that there’s a place to lead the person to, that there’s a mission or a goal involved. I don’t think poets are that purpose driven. A poem actually can have either no point or a very nuanced point.

Sometimes the point of a poem is just to make someone smile!

Here's a poem from Collins that makes me smile:

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read, never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue
or even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall

well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

From Sailing Alone around the Room: New and Selected Poems [811.54 COL].

Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect is stepping into the Round-Up host slot for today. Be sure to stop by!


  1. I think this is one of my favorites by Collins. Always makes me smile. And wonder what I've forgotten today!

    1. He has a way with words, doesn't he...

  2. I think I would find this poem much funnier if it didn't hit so close to home! ;)

    1. Michelle, when you get to my age, it'll start being funny again!

  3. If I remember correctly, I love this Collin's poem. LOL! Thanks for reminding me, Diane! = )

  4. I think Collins has been in my head!