How far would you drive for poetry? For me it was 244 miles round trip for the opportunity to hear Billy Collins, a former two-time U.S. Poet Laureate, do a poetry reading and present a writers' workshop. Collins held the reading at Central Lakes College in Brainerd, Minnesota as part of Verse Like Water, the visiting poet program of CLL, in conjunction with The Crossing Arts Alliance on Tuesday April 29th.
Collins is an acclaimed author of 14 poetry books. Actually his books sell in record numbers which
is unheard of in the poetry world.
Since the poetry reading was at a college many in attendance were students. Collins wisely selected poems that would resonate with the young people. Collins has an easy going manner that is casual and spontaneous. The diction in his poems is simple and the subject matter is relatable details of daily life. Often Collin's wry sense of humor comes across in the poems. He is a master at engaging his reader in the first stanza by starting small not making too many demands and setting up the scene. Then he makes the poem more complicated and a little more demanding as he moves it along to completion.
Some of his more memorable lines from the presentation;
- Revision is not cleaning up after the party, it is the party.
- It is hard to fake humor, but one can fake seriousness.
- Most poets find a voice and stick with that. The better you get the less you revise.
- Poems take turns and you as a poet have to be ready to take turns and keep an open mind.
I was happy they included a book signing.
Introduction to Poetry
by Billy Collins
I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide
or press an ear against its hive.
I say drop a mouse into your poem
And watch him probe his way out,
or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.
I want them to waterski
across the surface of the poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.
But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.
They began beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.
This poem was on the back cover of his newest book Aimless Love
by Billy Collins
Go, little book,
out of this house and into the world,
carriage made of paper rolling toward town
bearing a single passenger
beyond the reach of this jittery pen
and far from the desk and the nosy gooseneck lamp.
It is time to decamp,
put on a jacket and venture outside,
time to be regarded by other eyes,
bound to be held in foreign hands.
So off you go,infants of the brain,
with a wave and some bits of fathery advice:
stay out as late as you like,
don't bother to call or write,
and talk to as many strangers as you can.
A side note:The trip was well worth it. I loved every minute!
check out this week's Seasonal Plate from the Walker Pilot Independent paper