William E. Marks
Billy Collins - Poem by William E. Marks
The word went out - “For $75 you can take a workshop with Billy.”
High Noon, fifteen of us gather at a table beneath a shade tree near the sea.
He says, “I feel like Simon judging American Idol, ” - we laugh.
He explains how each will read their submitted poem and He will then “comment.” But first, He shares His thoughts on poetry, expounding on poets, alive and dead, praising their minimal use of words.
“By working within a form, ' He says, 'a poet is forced to be creative within the prescribed limits of the form. That is why I like haiku - it has no similes, no metaphors, very few adjectives - you have to say it all using seventeen syllables - it makes you enter into a negotiation with the form.”
I raise my hand and ask, “What is your opinion of free-verse and prose poetry? ”
His nostrils flare as He replies, “No verse is really free, that is, of course, if you want to write good poetry. As far as prose poetry goes - it just fills the page. In My opinion, there is poetry and there is prose, but there is no prose poetry.”
I was dead. Out of the many hundreds of poems I've written over the years, the one I submit for review - is a free-verse prose poem entitled “Flowing.”
I ask myself, “Why didn't I bring - one of my many haikus - for Billy to read? ”
Twelve poems were read and commented on.
Often, He made suggestions for shortening titles or removing sections - saying, “Revision should almost always be taking away - rarely adding.”
One by one, each wide-eyed poet quietly accepts their fate.
As I read my poem - I see Him looking out to sea or up into the tree. When I'm done, He sits staring at me. A mocking bird sings; I imagine - 'he likes my poem.'
His mouth moves, “Man, where do you come from? I haven't heard anything like this since the sixties. As far as I'm concerned, after the first line the rest means nothing.”
“Well, ” I say, “thanks for not being as rough as Simon.”
Tilting His head He says, “Oh, I can be like Simon, this thing you wrote isn't a poem - its just a bunch of words filling a page.”
I respond, “Well, do you at least like the title?
He says, “At least it's short.”
I say, “I could shorten it to “Flow.”
He looks away and asks, “Does anyone have anything to say about this poem? ”
One poet raises his hand, “Well, the purpose for our coming here was to learn.”
After the final two poets read, He waxes eloquently as He quotes and praises poems of poets He prefers.
One of the poems He quotes ends with the line, “I really don't know why I am telling you this.” He expresses how much he loves this last line.
I seize the moment, “That would make a good line for the end of my poem! ”
He looks my way and says, “Better yet, it would make a good title.”
“But that would be adding instead of taking away.” I say.
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