Billy Collins' New Book
The Trouble with Poetry won't be available until October. You can pre-order it, though.
Is there anyone quite like Billy Collins? Few poets hold readings with SRO audiences. Billy Collins does. It's because he makes it look so easy, like a tightrope walker dancing across that little wire waaaay up there. Is there any other poet with a best-selling CD? The Best Cigarette is a wonder. In fact, if you're not familiar with his work, begin with the CD so you can hear him. From then on, whatever of his poems you read, his voice will be there, reading it for you. Here's one favorite, if having just one is possible:
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.
Now at least I know that everything I've forgotten is in a tiny fishing village in the southern hemisphere of my brain. It's so primitive and tropical there.