25 January 2008

The Genius of Billy Collins

Lately I've been enjoying a good daily dose of poetry. Most recently I've been indulging in Walt Whitman and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I also read some great modern poetry. Billy Collins has quickly become one of my all time favorites. Going to a live reading featuring this man will now be added to my list of things I must do in my lifetime. Check out this poem:


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,
not 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.


lydia said...

Wow. That was genius! And man, can I ever relate!!

Great posts, Vanessa! I love finding that you have a new post for me to become more intelligent by reading.

Natalie said...

Wow I like that author. Whats-his-name writes great poetry.