Friday, October 22, 2010

In a Name

Argent's driving the Bus this week, and our challenge is to write a poem about a meeting. Meet contemporary American poet and two term Poet Laureate of the United States Billy Collins.

See the challenge and read the entries of other passengers here.


You'd think that by this time,
We'd be familiar--
Sweet William,
Wild Bill,
Maybe Billy Boy.
After all,
He's naked in the hallway,
Turning circles
Shuffling round the house.
Every night I sail with
Billy Collins.
And still it's Billy Collins, first and last.
I have known just Keats alone,
And Shelley. Shelley,
He's still three as in the past.
But as for my new lover
Billy Collins,
It's Billy first;
It's Billy Collins last.
Now I spend my nights with Billy Collins;
We're drinking tea and writing hard and fast.


  1. I need to find out more about this Billy boy. At the moment I feel like a Philistine.

  2. Billy sounds like a lucky guy. Even if he might be trapped inside the pages of a book.

  3. He mentioned this thing he's got going with you, awhile ago -
    What scene would I want to be enveloped in
    more than this one,
    an ordinary night at the kitchen table,
    floral wallpaper pressing in,
    white cabinets full of glass,
    the telephone silent,
    a pen tilted back in my hand?

    He said there was nothing else he needed, not even a coffee-colored Aston Martin DB4. The two of you must be having a very good time.
    Thanks for signing on again. I was missing you.

  4. This is what they used to call a 'pash' I think!
    Full of wanting....

  5. A fine piece of 'you wish', consummated in verse at least!

  6. Next, you'll write to me about you and Billy chopping parsley while listening to Art Blakey's version of "Three Blind Mice" Have fun and tell Billy Boy I said "hey"! ***This will be added to my top five fav Karen poems!!!*** I love it that much!

  7. I'm all for night time buddies! LOL :)

  8. Chris - I don't think you'll be disappointed in the acquaintance.

    jason - With that kind of talent (and success), I'd call him lucky, indeed!

    Mairi - Isn't that a wonderful scene? What scene more wonderful?

    Rachel - Unfortunately, I'm a fickle poetry lover. Maybe I'm poetically promiscuous - love them all!

    Dick - Just love his work, really.

    Kay - I love that one! The image of those mice with no tails to slip around the corners really got to me.

    Short Poems - Welcome, and thank you.

    Jinksy - An gal's gotta dream!

  9. I've been a fan of Billy for years. One of the better things he has done is set up a program for high school students to study a poem a day in school with a list of poems found at the Library of Congress site.

    Here is his poem posted there:

    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.

    from The Apple that Astonished Paris, 1996
    University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, Ark.
    Permissions information.

    Copyright 1988 by Billy Collins.
    All rights reserved.

  10. He sounds intriguing, this Billy-Boy of yours and I love that poem Christopher has posted.

  11. Great poem, love the repetition and the rhythm. Excellent stuff.

  12. Oh, I like this, with the writing hard & fast at the end & all.
    Perhaps I will go check out this Billy person after all (poet laureate credentials counting for little; i never can figure out what makes one exalted and the next unheard from. never much liked the right poems in school.)

  13. What a delightful poem! I thoroughly enjoyed and also agree that for some folks only 2 names work. using just the first - or last - drops the person off into deep space.

  14. @Chris Alba - We are Philistines together. I needs must make amends.

    Love the poem, Karen! It inspires me to make more of an effort to seek him out.


  15. Christopher - Thanks for posting that poem here. I think you've given those who don't know him a great introduction to Billy Collins.

    Argent - Billy Collins is such a wonderful talent! He says that he doesn't believe that one should have had to "be there" to understand a poem, which makes him accessible, yet his work is profoundly human and unique.

    Peter - Thank you. Any time you mention rhythm or rhyme, I just glow!

    Doctor - Thank you!

    NanU - Title or not, I think you'd like Billy Collins. He would not have been on your teacher's best poet list (unless he or she is incredibly cool and contemporary)!

    Muse Swings - Nice to know someone got my point! I wasn't sure if it made sense!

    Kat - Just Google him or go to You'll find enough to charm, I am sure. Read the one about Chopping Parsley while listenting to Art Blakely's Rendition of Three Blind Mice that Kay references above. Then read many, many! He's that good.

  16. like the spin in this poem, and the way it casually spills itself out :-)

  17. I love Billy Collins for many reasons. He's a genius, but he's not pretentious. And how awesome that your poem gives a wink to "The Names." I also love Billy Collin for that poem and that he wouldn't put it in a book or profit from it.

    The beginning of your poem is awesome in its playfulness. It also reminds me of Collins' voice in some of his more lighthearted poems. BUT it is not a copy. That's not easy to do, and I applaud you for that.

    I love these lines:

    "He's naked in the hallway,
    Turning circles
    Shuffling round the house."

    Excellent work, Karen! I enjoyed it very much and am glad you are reading Billy Collins' work.

  18. Billy sounds like one hell of a poet!

    Absolutely love the poem Christopher posted here - not to mention your own Karen. :)

  19. I love this. LOVE it!! I must credit Billy Collins for inspiring me to start writing poetry. He's my hero.

  20. i'm ashamed to admit that i haven't read any billy collins either. but happy to say that i happen to be in a library right now, so i'll be fixing that this afternoon.

    and i bet that the more familiar i am with him, the more i'll appreciate this poem. but right now, the way this is woven with such esteem and respect, and how the admiration becomes inspiration by the end - author and reader becoming co-conspirators - makes me need to know what i'm missing. :)

  21. Watercats - Thank you!

    Julie - What I love about Billy Collins' work is that he is accessible to everyone. He doesn't believe in being obscure, yet he is profound. His work gives much to aspire to, and that you even say there's an echo of him (dim, fading, gone) in my few lines flatters me terribly. Wish I could believe it, but it's a nice fantasy! ;-)

    Margaret - The poem Christopher posted is an excellent example of Billy Collins work. Isn't it amazing? What a poet!

    Willow - Thanks. I love finding a kindred spirit!

    joaquin - Don't be ashamed. Just remedy! I think you'll find him an amazing poet. You can also look of and find much of his work there. Google him and you'll find a site where he reads his own work. He's quite human--and quite good!