Billy Collins

(22 March 1941 - / New York City)

Reading An Anthology Of Chinese Poems Of The Sung Dynasty, I Pause To Admire The Length And Clarity Of Their Titles - Poem by Billy Collins

It seems these poets have nothing
up their ample sleeves
they turn over so many cards so early,
telling us before the first line
whether it is wet or dry,
night or day, the season the man is standing in,
even how much he has had to drink.

Maybe it is autumn and he is looking at a sparrow.
Maybe it is snowing on a town with a beautiful name.

"Viewing Peonies at the Temple of Good Fortune
on a Cloudy Afternoon" is one of Sun Tung Po's.
"Dipping Water from the River and Simmering Tea"
is another one, or just
"On a Boat, Awake at Night."

And Lu Yu takes the simple rice cake with
"In a Boat on a Summer Evening
I Heard the Cry of a Waterbird.
It Was Very Sad and Seemed To Be Saying
My Woman Is Cruel--Moved, I Wrote This Poem."

There is no iron turnstile to push against here
as with headings like "Vortex on a String,"
"The Horn of Neurosis," or whatever.
No confusingly inscribed welcome mat to puzzle over.

Instead, "I Walk Out on a Summer Morning
to the Sound of Birds and a Waterfall"
is a beaded curtain brushing over my shoulders.

And "Ten Days of Spring Rain Have Kept Me Indoors"
is a servant who shows me into the room
where a poet with a thin beard
is sitting on a mat with a jug of wine
whispering something about clouds and cold wind,
about sickness and the loss of friends.

How easy he has made it for me to enter here,
to sit down in a corner,
cross my legs like his, and listen.

Comments about Reading An Anthology Of Chinese Poems Of The Sung Dynasty, I Pause To Admire The Length And Clarity Of Their Titles by Billy Collins

  • (10/26/2016 6:01:00 AM)

    Reading an Anthology blah blah blah
    Once again, as always, the appeal to simplicity. Poetry in Billy Collins' mind should be easy. No difficult titles, please, like The Waste Land or Ozymandius or Gerontion. No! We have to be spoon-fed this retiree pablum so that our baby teeth don't hurt too much. Awwwww, wittle wittle baby, here's a poem for baby! (Report) Reply

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  • (6/8/2009 9:32:00 PM)

    What happened over the years that we have come to value obscurity over clarity. Perhaps in the name of structure, rhyming, metaphor. Perhaps just a matter of ego. If you are as smart as me you will get it. If not well.....

    What is gained by writing a poem that requires a degree in literature and the mastery of three languages, two of them dead, to be comprehensible? ?
    (Report) Reply

    Joseph Pedulla (10/26/2016 6:06:00 AM)

    It's not a battle between obscurity and clarity with Collins, you see; it's about the fact that his best notions are nothing but passing whimsy. There is not a single idea he propounds that is worth more than a few seconds' notice. He never verges on the big questions, no. He studiously avoids anything but tea and icicles and good paper with a number two pencil while petting his dog. It's all Hallmark pablum! Great poetry is not obscure; it is difficult because the poet is straining to say something that is GREAT and to say it with language that is GREAT. To put it into art terms: Collins is a cartoonist; Frost was a Michelangelo! A poem, by the way, can be profound without being obscure. But Collins' poems are not profound, because his themes are not profound and he is not profound. Simple as that (no joke intended) .

  • (3/10/2009 11:18:00 AM)

    wow i will give you a +10 (Report) Reply

  • (3/18/2005 2:41:00 PM)

    I've run out of superlatives... (Report) Reply

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Read poems about / on: summer, loss, poem, autumn, river, woman, sad, spring, beautiful, rain, water, wind, night, sun, women, friend

Poem Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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