Have come to hate the very name. Like Savoir Faire he's everywhere. From what I've heard, he's supposed to be easy, fun, light-but-deep(ish), though I wouldn't know, as I've refused to read him. On principle.
And what's up with "Billy"?!
Then I read this:
and have decided to give him a chance...
I heard him read at Southampton. Chops he got. Very droll and wise. Personally, a bit tart, but then what poet isn't tart?
I guess I'm just highly suspicious of public success. BUT
the interview was VERY engaging and entertaining.
I've always liked Billy Collins. Liked Updike, too. There's a verisimilitude in the wry, snickering work of both men. Maybe snickering's the wrong word, but they really snicker when you're not watching.
Loathing Billy Collins, hating Hemingway, and gushing over Chekhov may be symptomatic of some universal impulse in human nature, at least in humans of the modern American literary persuasion. I can't really explain or define it and it doesn't have a name. It's not necessarily wrong or bad, just... not always founded in logic, or so it seems to me at least.
Thanks for the link to the interview.
I show this to my students every year to prove to them that they CAN memorize a poem and recite it and also that heroes come in all shapes and guises: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVu4Me_n91Y
I love Billy Collins. I also pass out this poem before we study any poetry:
Introduction to Poetry
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.
That *is* good!
And very much in line with the gist of his interview.
When he was poet laureate, Collins began this web site for high school students and teachers. It's a great resource. He is a fine representative of the art and a tireless promoter of other poets and their work: http://www.loc.gov/poetry/180/
James L: I love what you said. Yes, both Collins and Updike snicker. Some of the best writing is social commentary. Wait, isn't it
"Perhaps his informal side is best reflected by his given name: he was christened William after his father, thus Willy for a while, and then Billy, which he has kept as his nom de plume as much in reaction to the pretentiousness of those writers who use their initials, or one initial and a given name, as in W. James Collins, or whatever."
Well, yeah, I thought of using 'Jackie Collins,' which is how I was referred to as a boy, avoiding the pretentiousness of 'J. Mykell Collinz,' but another writer, some woman, is already using it.
I like Billy's 'Introduction to Poetry.' Thanks for posting it JP.
And thank you Matt, for the link to Billy's interview.
Maybe I'll try some poetry myself one of these days, nothing else seems to be working. And I'll get rid of that pretentious name.
'Johnny Collins,' that might work.
I am, too often, surrounded by sneerers. People who cannot, will not appreciate anything but the most avant-garde, the most revolutionary. I allow them to sneer and I don't argue with them. And I go check out the object of their upturned noses and often find great enjoyment. So it is with Billy Collins. I have been enjoying him for years. He is fun and he is serious.
Thanks, Matt, for the link, and JLD for your comment.
Saw Billy Collins read here in San Francisco, City Arts & Lectures series...just simply a wonderful, wonderful evening. Too easy to discount, due to accessibility; he is a bard and very entertaining. There's a YouTube of Bill Murray introducing him reading in NYC that i'd seen too, and then there's this little poem, as good, or better in less space, than Cheever or Yates in Revolutionary Road:
Matt, thanks for this read in PR and Doug, thanks for the link, too. The wonderful thing about Billy Collins' work is you can love one piece and hate the next, so he continually surprises. I read most everything I stumble across of his, if for no other reason to figure out how I feel about the collective body of work. Beyond the work, I think the dude is awesome--a generous bard. Peace...
For the four lines:
into the darkness of the throat
where you can see universes created
and destroyed, world spinning in and out of being,
a cosmos blossoming then closing its petals.
I'd find it hard to dislike him. I've never sought out his writing. But I love that.
Matt, you're making a mistake. Collins is one of our best poets. I say this as someone who was reading his poetry a full decade before anyone ever heard of him. I think I first started reading him in '90? '91? In a book called Stand Up Poets, writers influences by Edward Field, and also contained people like Bukowski, Locklin, Koertge, Lummis. Edited by Charles Harper Webb.
Perhaps for this reason I never got the bandwagon blues about the guy. He was always a poet I loved, even when no one else did.
His writing is rightfully popular. He isn't so much "easy," as not obtuse. There's a lot of humor involved, but underneath the humor is a serious mind dealing with serious topics.
Don't judge him before you've read him. Disliking something merely because it's popular is as a bad way to go about your business as disliking something merely because it isn't cool. At one time, Shakespeare and Dickens were popular authors.
By the way, I still think The Apple that Astonished Paris is his best book.
"Don't judge him before you've read him."
I was ADMITTING I was being a prejudiced fool!
Oh, I know Matt. I was just reinforcing your assessment! :)
(you a baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad boi!)
Billy Collins is a great poet. And I say that as a fan of Bukowski's work, which even he said was just writing with random line breaks thrown in. But Billy, no, he has that something. Can't put my finger on it. But he HAS it.