19 February 2008

I Know a Guy

Marmot Dad has connections. He meets the famous. Last week he met Donald Davis, a wonderful professional storyteller, and he let me meet him, too, which was so nice of him. I'm compiling a list of people I'd like Marmot Dad to meet, so that I can hang out with them. When I started pitching my list to Marmot Dad, he called me a stalker. Harsh.

He did say that Billy Collins might still be a possibility. This is the first poem in Poetry 180, an anthology (the poems are also available online) created as part of a Library of Congress project. There's a second anthology, 180 More, which is also very nice.

Introduction to Poetry

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 a 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 a 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 begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

9 comments:

chou said...

I want him to add Annie Dillard to my version of the list. I wonder what she would write me if I cooked for her. I like the poem you put up--it allows me to sit back and enjoy watching the poem romp as opposed to attempting to parse the subtle nuances of albatrosses and such.

Anonymous said...

I love "tie the poem to a chair with rope and torture a confessions out of it". That's what we often do. Mom

Anonymous said...

Those Poetry 180 books are collections of others' work. Have you read any of Billy's books? I think he has eight or nine out. One of them is a book of haiku called She Was Just Seventeen. It's a beautifully printed and bound art book, so it costs more than usual-- about $40. But the others are all out in softcover, so they're not expensive.

Try this poem out on your mother.




The Lanyard

Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

Yankee Girl said...

I'm a new ban of Billy Collins--thanks. Isn't Donald Davis the best. Such a great teller and still the nicest person. I'm seeing him tonight.

p.s. if you are looking to meet any famous rehab individuals hit Borders Books in Orem on a Sunday. (That's the day that the rehab place up at Sundance frees all the celebs) My brother-in-law sees and sometimes meets these people while working. Recently he spent time helping Tom Brokaw look for some books (including his own). Not sure if Tom is in rehab, though--but then why else would he be in Orem, Utah?

MBC said...

Chou--I'd like to hang out with Annie Dillard, too, although I've still never made it through The Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. I I love An American Childhood, though.

Mom--That's my favorite line, too.

Anonymous--I have read a number of Billy's books, but not She Was Just Seventeen. I buy the poetry collection in our library, and Billy Collins is one of the only contemporary poets whose books check out. I make sure we have other great poets, but he's definitely a favorite in our community--understandably so.

Yankee Girl--Fascinating. Maybe Tom Brokaw was just visiting someone in rehab. I find it most interesting that he was looking for his own book.

emily said...

I want to waterski across the surface of a poem. I wish I could be doing that instead of working.

Anonymous said...

Are you in Utah? Did you know Billy Collins will be at BYU on Feb. 29?

Alyssa said...

I love Donald Davis! I think my favorite story of his is the one where he puts the peas he doesn't want to eat in the hollow leg of his table.... We don't WASTE FOOD! :)

willowmanor said...

Billy Collins is one of my favorites. Love his "The Death of the Hat" which I just posted. Your blog is great.

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