Why Billy Collins and I Are Not on Speaking Terms Right Now

English: Former United States Poet Laureate (2...

Why are Billy Collins and I not talking to each other? Well, first of all, he’s gallivanting around Florida, going to poetry festivals in a Hawaiian shirt, like a kid on spring break, while I’m stuck here up north where it was 8 degrees Fahrenheit this Wednesday morning! We’re having a heat wave today, as the mercury is up to a sweltering 23. I’m angry, and quite frankly, envious as hell. I can’t find proof of the Hawaiian shirt thing, but I’m sure he’s got that same smug smile on his face, reading directly from his books, just to prove he’s got books, and to remind me I have yet to get off my ass and send in my next batch of submissions.

Aside from all that is the fact that I never, ever hear from him, not even when the chips are down, and I’m feeling low. He doesn’t call. He doesn’t write. Then again, that might be just because he doesn’t know me from Adam.

We only met that one time back in October at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre. He was kind and funny, and he asked me about a response poem I told him I had written. He even laughed at my joke! I didn’t wash my ears for weeks after that. But there was a line as long as a list of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s lovers behind me, and while he watched me leave with a certain sadness in his eyes, I know he was glad to have met me, just this once. If we never meet again, we’ll always have Wilkes-Barre.

Play it again, Sam. You played it for him, you can play it for me. If he can stand to listen to it, I can.

Billy Collins signs for me.
Billy Collins signs for me.

And so, I miss him. Seriously, he’s a modern hero to me, arrogance and all. He’s brilliant, talented and confident. He knows who he is and what he’s doing, so why shouldn’t he be in Florida instead of New York this time of year? I would be if I could.

Still, much as I love him, I have been publicly cheating on him with inaugural poet Richard Blanco. Or I would—if Richard would ever return my calls. I was hoping he’d stop by for a visit on his way home to Maine after he left D.C. But alas. . .

Instead, I am stuck here in the frigid, bitter cold that has paralyzed Pennsylvania, reading cold winter poems by Robert Frost and William Stafford. Speaking of Mr. Frost, I have yet to record the commentary for “The Road Not Taken,” that I produced this Fall. That might be a good project for the weekend.

Across the River from my old home town. Photo from Kaivalya.
Across the River from my old hometown. Photo from Kaivalya.

And speaking of Stafford, the frosty single-digit temperatures, while not uncommon here, are something we haven’t seen much of the last couple of years. As a matter of fact it’s been two years since my beautiful Susquehanna River froze over, and by the look of the ice chunks on the river now, tomorrow might be a good time to finally don my parka, go down to the banks and record Stafford’s “Ask Me,” the first line of which starts with the words, “Some time when the river is ice.” I may not have another opportunity this season since the thermometer will be reading above the freezing mark by Tuesday.

So I guess I am happy here, and not at all lonely. The music of Brian P. Kelly fills my house daily, and the three faces you see in my banner up top are not far away. I have writing to work on, some new pieces, some editing and polishing, and lots of submitting to do. I hope you enjoy your weekend, and if you are not in Florida, or anywhere south of D.C., I hope you find a way to keep warm this weekend. Hot chocolate with Kahlua helps. And of course, eat lots of poetry.

And as Billy leaves Palm Beach today, surely thinking wistful thoughts of returning to a less humid climate, I leave you and him, because I know he’s watching, with my reading of his poem “Sweet Talk.”

21 Replies to “Why Billy Collins and I Are Not on Speaking Terms Right Now”

  1. Wonderful!! We have just gone through a mini-freeze here in Somerset and I so long for some warmth in my bones. Robert Frost is chilly (but brilliant) company for winter weather but I envy Billy his Florida sun.


  2. ..good lucks David! you will make it…i know… loved the reading…’eat lots of poetry’ – that’s what i’m doing ever since i learned to love poetry…and now i can’t stop…smiles…


  3. I understand there is medication now that can help you with these delusions of celebrity romance… 🙂

    We had the cold weather here first, and, as sympathetic as I am to your coldness, I’m also rather happy that I can again feel my toes and fingers when I am outside. 🙂


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