Posted by: Wink | October 5, 2008

Billy Collins

Maggie and I recently went to hear poet, Billy Collins, read his poems at the Coolidge Corner Theater. A full house of colorful types (were they writers and poets? students? English profs?) showed up to listen for $5 per person – a bargain for an evening of poetic rapture. I had never heard a roomful of people sigh – as this audience did following each poem. It was a soft sort of moaning sound – like a lot of people having a moment of recognition. An audible public display of sentimentality.

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0DE2D6163AF933A15753C1A9649C8B63

Above is a link to a well written review of Collins’ book of poems, Nine Horses, from the NYT.

Here is one of my favorites:

LITANY

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.
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