Monday, April 27, 2009

Poetry Month

She, who cannot find her notes on looped hachure, and she who realized that Poetry month is almost over before she has posted any of her favorites, would like to offer this:

Introduction to Poetry

Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

Blog Billy Collins poet

Painting of Billy Collins
by Didi Menendez.

When I went looking for my two books of Billy Collins’s poetry, which should have been on a shelf devoted entirely to books of poetry, I couldn’t find any poetry books….  I don’t remember rearranging the shelves, but now all the poetry books are jumbled in various places.  When I found Questions about Angels (which is not the book that has the poem copied above in it) I found a handwritten poem tucked inside the cover and signed, with flourish, “MWC.”

I swear I’ve never seen this note before.  I would also swear I bought the book new.  How could I have forgotten about this interesting poem, written out long hand, tucked inside?… because frankly I think those initials might be Billy Collins’s. I don’t know what the ‘M’ is, but the ‘WC’ could certainly stand for William Collins.  What do you think? The handwriting is fascinating…quite artistic to my eye…. 

Here is the poem:

For as Cleanthes said:

Just as sound
   pent up in the narrow
   channel of a trumpet
   comes out sharper and stronger….

So it seems to me
   that thought
   compressed into the numbered fact of poetry,
   springs forth much more violently
   and strikes me a much stiffer jolt.

And last, another favorite of mine, “Forgetfulness,” read by Billy Collins and animated by Julian Grey.


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K Spoering said...

Love the "Fogetfulness" poem - unfortunately, it is very meaningful to me right now! I have found several 'treasures' in used books when I got them home. The poem sounds like it could be his - wouldn't that be cool?

K Spoering said...

Oops, I even forgot how to spell forgetfulness, evidently!

Valerie said...

Thank you! Billy Collins is one of my favorites. However, I must admit that as a high school student I did try to beat the meaning out of poems with a rubber hose. However, I had great English teachers through high school and almost 40 years later it seems more has stuck with me than it must have seemed to them at the time.

It would be interesting to know where that scrap of paper with the poem came from.

One of the nice things about forgetfulness is one gets to discover things all over again. (giggle)

OzWeaver said...

Kathy, I often accidentally omit the 'r' in forget....I think it's related to brain fog.

OzWeaver said...


I have also been known to beat poems, movies, novels, music, and many forms of visual arts with any blunt object at hand in order to torture a confession of meaning from them. I'd like to say I'm beyond that now, but I'm not!

Someone recently told me about how freeing it is to visit a museum exhibit and not read even one placard. She just enjoyed the art, without knowing the artist's name, without knowing anything cultural or historic or political. I've been trying to do that too....but it's pretty hard for me!

ybonesy said...

I love the painting of Billy Collins. Don't you love his name? Maybe it's because it's like Billy Crystal, but the poet's name reminds me of an entertainer's name. (I said the same thing when my blog partner did a post on him.)

Oh, but what I really meant to comment on was how sad that you couldn't find poetry books in the bookstore. Sheesh!

Intriguing mystery about the note in the book. Hmmm...