My favorite week of the year - Part I: Some Poetry

theproblemwithpoetry.jpgSometimes I like poetry. A lot. Usually I tend to forget about it, though. So the day I was hanging out with my sister and A Prairie Home Companion was on NPR and someone started talking, I wasn't expecting her to say, "Hey! That's Billy Collins!" or that we'd start talking about poetry. I had no idea who she meant, so I asked. She answered, "An excellent contemporary poet. Untraditional. I think you'd like him." So I listened to him read. When he was finished reading, I was quite intrigued by his rhythms...by his word choices. He amused me in a way other favored poets usually haven't.

Now it's the day after Christmas of a year I'm quite ready to see fade into history. Cafe l'orange from The Fresh Market is the treat I'm drinking. My friend's tabby cat, Lucy, has settled nearby but not too close; we had enough cuddling last night to carry us a little longer. I've turned the TV from the horrendous "reality" show that's been playing again, this time in marathon sequence, which I'd be shamed to tell you I was watching - and chosen, instead, to play music videos on CMT. I have to be in the mood for country music and apparently today I have been, a little. Plus that way you can have music playing with an occasional pseudo plotline to entertain you if you want to look up from your reading.

My reading. I'm reading a volume of poetry by Billy Collins: The Trouble with Poetry. Which sis gave me for Christmas. I don't often receive poetry for Christmas although I do tend to get books. Like last year when she gave me Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, by David Sedaris, she nailed it again.

Delighted: that's me.

Want to enjoy a bit of poetry together? Poetry about which this has been written:

"Collins is as close as anyone in contemporary American poetry will likely get to being a household name. Blame his sweet, smart, and wise poems...his colorful personality and ungoverned humor; or his remarkable energy....This collection is as rich and mischievous as anything he has given us previously. Highly recommended."  -- Library Journal

Maybe the only thing better than enjoying poetry alone during your favorite week of the year is sharing it with the readers who have surely come to your blog, keen to know what tantalizing tidbits you have to regale them with today. Oh yea, I'm gonna' type some poetry for you, only first I had to read the entire collection because I couldn't decide which single poem would best serve. (Also because I wanted to read poetry by myself on the 26th day of December. But we're talking about you right now, so we'll just say I read the book for you.) Because you, dear reader, may only ever read a single Billy Collins poem...the one I include here. Unless you're more well-read than I am and you've already got his collections in your own library. Or unless you like the poem I include here so much that you decide to go out and get your own copy so you can enjoy the rest. Oh the pressure I place on myself to select the right Billy Collins poem to write in my blog...in hopes that you, too, might enjoy him as I do, and read more.

Even if you don't, it's been a great day for me so far. Hopefully for you, too. I'm planning to fill the rest of my days this year with other really fine activities chosen just for myself. "The gift of time" I'm calling it. I want more "pockets of joy," well-described by a friend recently, who reminded me how valuable these gifts can be, which often get buried under the minutia. If not a "minutia-free week," maybe it'll be closer than the others...

Fool Me Good


I am under the covers
waiting for the heat to come up
with a gurgle and hiss
and the banging of the water hammer
that will frighten the cold out of the room.

And I am listening to a blues singer
named Precious Bryant
singing a song called "Fool Me Good."

If you don't love me, baby, she sings,
would you please try to fool me good?

I am also stroking the dog's head
and writing down these words,
which means that I am calmly flying
in the face of the Buddhist advice
to do only one thing at a time.

Just pour the tea,
just look into the eye of the flower,
just sing the song --
one thing at a time

and you will achieve serenity,
which is what I would love to do
as the fan-blades of the morning begin to turn.

If you don't love me, baby,
she sings
as a day-moon fades in the window
and the hands circle the clock,
would you please try to fool me good?

Yes, Precious, I reply,
I will fool you as good as I can,
but first I have to learn to listen to you
with my whole heart,
and not until you have finished

will I put on my slippers,
squeeze out some toothpaste,
and make a big foamy face in the mirror,

freshly dedicated to doing one thing at a time --
one night at a time for you, darling,
one tooth at a time for me.


Billy Collins
The Trouble with Poetry: And Other Poems