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Friday, February 01, 2008

Billy Collins, again...

I have a tendency to overblow things, exaggerate to a fault. I know this is the case with Billy Collins, but the more I look at it, the more I start believing in the genius of the man and his work. There is something absolutely distinctive about poetry that cannot be found in any other form of language use. That lyrical aspect, that musical temperament poetry presents to us only goes to show the reader that very same possibility of language. Reading Collins' poetry might be "topical" or even "conventional" to some, but to me Collins takes risks, make turns in the middle of a poem like no other poet alive today. Reading Billy Collins' "Sailing Alone Around the Room" was a definite treat. I was sad to even finish it. Poetry like this, really, should be core curricula for all students.

Many people ask me what I see in Paul Auster's work, and I can only answer with the hyperbole that Auster cannot write a bad sentence even if he tried. The same goes for Haruki Murakami's work; I often describe it as walking into a Salvador Dali painting. Now I have a new champion to receive my exaggerated praise. Here are some phrases, turns of theme and other lines from Collins' book that blinded me with their brilliance....

from "Plight of the Troubadour"

"My sentiments are tangled like kites / in the branches of her incomprehension..."

from "Winter Syntax"

"The full moon makes sense. When a cloud crosses it / it becomes as eloquent as a bicycle leaning / outside a drugstore...."

What speaks to the reader in these lines is the actual picture of the bicycle leaning... a picture of Any Town USA.

from "Schoolsville"

"The population ages but never graduates.... / Once in a while a student knocks on the door / with a term paper fifteen years late / or a question about Yeats or double-spacing. / And sometimes one will appear in a windowpane / to watch me lecturing the wallpaper, / quzzing the chandelier, reprimanding the air."

This is a good example of the topical/conventional made remarkable... as a teacher of literature, there's no doubt as to why these lines spoke to me.

from "Vade Mecum"

"I want the scissors to be sharp / and the table to be perfectly level / when you cut me out of my life / and paste me in that book you always carry."

All I can say about this little, short one is.... "experience, oh experience..."

I could, if time allowed, quote from every single poem in the collection, but I have to go and teach now. I not only recommend Billy Collins, I really think everyone should own at least one book by him; he should be "required reading for the entire human race." How about that for hyperbole! :-)

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At 6:16 PM, Blogger Iliana said...

Thank you so much for posting that video - it was great. I love Billy Collins' poetry and funny enough just yesterday too I heard that he might be in my part of town in the Spring. Can't wait!


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