Monday, May 10, 2010


Several weeks ago we had some friends over, and one of them, perusing a shelf of books, pulled out my copy of “Sailing Alone Around the Room”, a compilation of poems by Billy Collins, US Poet Laureate 2001-2003. He mentioned a few things about Billy Collins, saying he liked his work and asked what I thought about it. Well, I had to admit that I’d never actually read the book. It’s really quite pathetic- here’s this lovely slim volume of poems given to me by a good friend (Alanna) in high school. I remember trying to be interested in a book of poems, but really I have this innate fear of poetry- so much of it is deceptively simple and innocent on the surface, only to be about dark, evil things- or else it’s just vague and unnecessarily dense and “meta”. I didn’t even give this book a chance. And so for six…seven…eight years it sat on my bookshelf in my room in NY while I finished high school, went off to college, and then came back and then moved again…and then over Christmas I boxed it up and shipped it 3000 miles across the country, where, upon pulling it from the cardboard box, I carefully placed it on a different bookshelf and promptly forgot about it.

And then the brief aforementioned conversation happened, and, assured that Billy Collins’ poetry was quite harmless and pleasantly amusing, I plucked up the courage to read it.

And I loved it! My first read-through was fast. I just went from poem to poem like they were chapters in a book, not really pausing at all to enjoy them as separate entities. It was like, once I started reading them, I realized I had been starved for poetry and just had to keep gulping them down whole, as fast as possible, whenever I had a spare moment. Here are links to two of my favorites: “Another reason why I don’t keep a gun in the house”, and “Directions”.

This whole episode reminded me of a half-hearted new year’s resolution I made back in January. The Billy Collins book is not the only book of mine on our bookshelves that I haven’t read, though by this point most, if not all, have travelled hundreds, if not thousands, of miles with me. It seemed like a cool project to take this year and read through all these books, including “The Singer Trilogy”, “Conversations with an Eagle”, “Renoir, My Father”, “Les Fleurs du Mal”, and many art books (looking at the pictures dozens of times doesn’t count). It seems a bit late to get started on a new year’s resolution, but maybe I’ll still give it a shot!

Well, that’s all I wanted to say, so…toodles :)


Anonymous said...

The first poem is really cool. The title gives it an entirely different spin than what I would take away from the poem without it.

Thanks for sharing this! I'm going to go read some more of his poems. =]

Karen M

Anonymous said...

The singer trilogy is cool. It is a good read.
Mom Oegema

Marli said...

That's one of my favorite books of poetry. I read it for a Creative Writing class a few years ago (wow, 6 years ago!!)

I'm so glad you liked it too!