Summer Reading 4/7

Sailing Alone Around the Room by Billy Collins

Billy Collins’s poetry is fresh and accessible. He connects with the reader, making them think “That’s it exactly!  I just never thought to say it like that,” which is what a good writer ought to do. He touches the intangible (“Bar Time” and “The Brooklyn Museum of Art”), and visualizes the invisible (“The Lesson”). The poetry is casual, and even pokes fun at people who are too serious for their own good (“Introduction to Poetry” and “Osso Buco”).

His poetry encourages one to see the world in fresh ways (“I Chop Some Parsley While Listening to Art Blakey’s Version of “Three Blind Mice”” and “The Waitress”). When I was little, I used to lay on the floor to see everything from a different angle. It was fascinating—everyone looked as though their heads could hit the ceiling, and when I stood up they were normal again (still tall, but no longer giants). Unlike my five year old self, Billy Collins explores without crawling under the furniture.

So far, my favorite poem by Billy Collins is “Morning”:

Why do we bother with the rest of the day,
the swale of the afternoon,
the sudden dip into evening,

then night with his notorious perfumes,
his many-pointed stars?

This is the best—
throwing off the light covers,
feet on the cold floor,
and buzzing around the house on espresso—

maybe a splash of water on the face,
a palmful of vitamins—
but mostly buzzing around the house on espresso,

dictionary and atlas open on the rug,
the typewriter waiting for the key of the head,
a cello on the radio,

and, if necessary, the windows—
trees fifty, a hundred years old
out there,
heavy clouds on the way
and the lawn steaming like a horse
in the early morning.


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