Day 13 – 30 Days, 30 Readings: “Picnic, Lightning,” by Billy Collins

Billy Collins
Billy Collins (Photo credit: marcelo noah)

Well, what would you expect on Friday the 13th except for me to run into all kinds of technical bad luck and snafus (snafu?), running me down to the last minute for uploading a video in time to qualify for day 13?

So in the spirit of bad luck here is a poem by Billy Collins, called Picnic Lightning from his book by the same title, pubished in 1998 by the University of Pittsburgh Press.

I should mention that for some reason I never saw the comma in the title of this poem until I went to read it tonight. I have only read this to myself once or twice in the past, and somehow it sounded funnier as Picnic Lightning. And yet adding the punctuation suddenly gives the title power, as it allows it to be a comment about cause and effect. No longer just an adjective and a noun,  but an abbreviated sentence: “Picnic, lightning.” It’s a statement; we were having a picnic– she was struck by lightning. No wonder Collins was so inspired by the quote.

I have done a great many readings of Mr. Collins’ poems, as I am a big fan. I you would like to hear more of them please take a stroll through my YouTube Playlist of Billy Collins poems. I’ve included a few there that are not read by me, and one really great one of Billy reading at the White House.

14 Replies to “Day 13 – 30 Days, 30 Readings: “Picnic, Lightning,” by Billy Collins”

    1. THIS video? Or this poem? 🙂 Because I just finished recording it less than a half hour ago. lol And then I uploaded it to Youtube about one minute before it arrived here on my blog.

      I am so glad you liked it enough to post. Please feel free to inflict my voice upon your readers. I won’t mind at all 😀 But seriously, I have loved Collins for so long now. He really is one of my very favorite living poets. Thanks for stopping in here, and for the like and the response. It’s great to meet another Collins lover!


    1. haha, yes, the animation ones are great, especially “In the Country,” I think that’s the title– about the mouse. I didn’t know someone else did a reading of this one; I’ll have to check it out. It’s almost always better that I don’t listen to another person read the same poem before I do it myself. That way I can listen to the differences in the interpretation of the voice. Always fun. 🙂


    2. Thank you. If you check out my Billy Collins playlist (I’ve linked to it now in the updated post here), or scroll back a page or so you’ll find a few of those poems, including an awesome reading Billy did live not too long ago at the White House. He’s fantastic.


  1. Billy Collins – my modern day poetic hero. Always that little crumb of dark humour. Deceptively simple – I envy him his skill. Thanks for this – another great day, even if you were panicking to the last minute!


    1. I think my panic was partly born of not wanting to end up with an on screen typo again. 15 minutes before midnight I realized that the recording said “distant hand of death,” instead of “instant hand of death!” Yikes! lol

      And thank you. I agree that Billy is a modern master, despite the criticism he gets from certain more “serious” poets and critics. They are just jealous he would say, I bet. This is not my favorite by him, but I like it and it was a good fit for Friday the 13th. 🙂


  2. This is the first poem I have heard you read and loved it. There are few who can give poetry readings and do it well. In your case, I can say with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that you “lend to the rhyme of the poet the beauty of thy voice.” Well done. I’m listening.


    1. Thank you, Linda! That’s very dear of you to say. I am just fussing over editing the text of today’s post, an outdoor piece. I think I’m finally ready to walk away and leave it be. Thank you for the dose of encouragement.


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