Seduced by Billy Collins

BallisticsOkay, okay, so I make it sound more exciting than it really is, but I’m referring to a phrase from the wonderful video at the bottom of this post. It’s a lengthy and in-depth, but fun and slightly off-beat interview of Billy Collins by Ginger Murchison of The Cortland Review. This was all captured at the Palm Beach Poetry Festival back in January of this year. You remember, one of the several Florida poetry festivals Collins was attending that had me so envious?

We are about to begin the last week of Poetry Month, and my daily recordings of poems. I have a few requests to fulfill as well as a couple of friends whose work I want to introduce you to, but I just realized today that I had yet to bring you a new recording of Collins for this year. Yes, I know you get a great deal of Stafford, O’Hara and Collins from me, but why not? I read quite a variety of poems and poets, so I am allowed my splurges now and then.

So for tonight, here is a pile of clichés about that Collins twists around the concept of love, bends and mixes them in such ways that I am squinting by the final line. It’s from his book Ballistics, and I’m rather fond of it. If you have some time, pour yourself a cup of coffee and take in the YouTub-ed video after the poem. It’s long, but I enjoyed indulging myself the time for it.


When it’s late at night and branches
are banging against the windows,
you might think that love is just a matter

of leaping out of the frying pan of yourself
into the fire of someone else,
but it’s a little more complicated than that.

It’s more like trading the two birds
who might be hiding in that bush
for the one you are not holding in your hand.

A wise man once said that love
was like forcing a horse to drink
but then everyone stopped thinking of him as wise.

Let us be clear about something.
Love is not as simple as getting up
on the wrong side of the bed wearing the emperor’s clothes.

No, it’s more like the way the pen
feels after it has defeated the sword.
It’s a little like the penny saved or the nine dropped stitches.

You look at me through the halo of the last candle
and tell me love is an ill wind
that has no turning, a road that blows no good,

but I am here to remind you,
as our shadows tremble on the walls,
that love is the early bird who is better late than never.

–from Ballistics, by Billy Collins. © 2008, Random House

3 Comments Add yours

  1. slpmartin says:

    As always I enjoy you reading of the poem…even one build upon a pile of clichés…you make it work..bravo!


    1. You are awesome, sir. Thank you!


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