Poets make it so easy to fall in love with them.
Take the charming Billy Collins, for example. The former U.S. Poet Laureate, a cross between Bill Murray and Kevin Spacey, read last night in Brookline from his new poetry collection, Ballistics. Two lines into his first poem, I was swooning. The title, “Brightly Colored Boats Upturned on the Banks of the Charles,” was followed by the line, “What is there to say about them that hasn’t been said in the title?”
“Most poets would have stopped there,” Collins said, interrupting himself. “But I soldiered on.”
Collins’ poems are like that: funny and clever in the highest sense, but never at the expense of a beautiful image or a unique observation. You don’t want his poems to end, but then you do, because the endings are so marvelous. Collins himself remarked how much he enjoys discovering the unexpected ending to a poem, especially when writing.
His poem, “Fishing on the Susquehanna in July” begins with a confession in that amusing Collins style:
I have never been fishing on the Susquehanna or on any river for that matter to be perfectly honest. Not in July or any month have I had the pleasure--if it is a pleasure-- of fishing on the Susquehanna.
He challenges himself to write a poem about a dog that’s unsentimental and does. He reads a poem about driving past the cemetery where his parents are buried that’s well, humorous. He laughs with the audience; “You try writing a humorous poem about your dead parents,” he says.
So, I’ve fallen for a poet: this former Poet Laureate who’s a charming wordsmith–someone I’d listen to talk about economics or eggs for hours. Someone who is age inappropriate for me, possibly, but who could write about our unlikely love, the fact that neither of us has even gone fishing on the Susquehanna: the stuff, after all, of poems.