Some days are birthdays
Sweet Billy turns 67 today. What a fine age.
Imagine my delight at finding this treasure trove of Billy online yesterday, reading one of his books of poetry, available for free download at Open Source Audio. Kind of like he’s giving me a birthday gift, instead of the other way around. Don't tell him, but I'm sending him a birthday gift, a dorodango made by a man named Bruce Gardner, a master of the art in New Mexico. Really. I think Billy will enjoy the metaphor of dirt creating beauty, of polishing, polishing to a fine sheen, using only the dirt itself.
When I'm writing, Billy Collins has said, I'm always reader conscious. I have one reader in mind (um, I don't mean to be rude to the rest of you, but I'm thinking that's me), someone who is in the room with me, and who I'm talking to, and I want to make sure I don't talk too fast, or too glibly. Usually I try to create a hospitable tone at the beginning of a poem. Stepping from the title to the first lines is like stepping into a canoe. A lot of things can go wrong."
A few years ago, he went on a national poetry tour, reading at nine colleges in six days. “You're like a Fed-Ex package,” Collins said of the experience. "Who would have thought staying up at night pushing little words around would lead to such adventures? People ask me, 'Have you ever tried writing a screenplay or novel?' Like, 'Get real.' It's like asking a jazz drummer, 'Have you ever tried the piccolo?'"
And generous as he is with his words, taking us into small places, like we have stepped into a snow globe, let’s celebrate with one of his offerings to the world:
Some days I put the people in their places at the table,
bend their legs at the knees,
if they come with that feature,
and fix them into the tiny wooden chairs.
All afternoon they face one another,
the man in the brown suit,
the woman in the blue dress,
perfectly motionless, perfectly behaved.
But other days, I am the one
who is lifted up by the ribs,
then lowered into the dining room of a dollhouse
to sit with the others at the long table.
but how would you like it
if you never knew from one day to the next
if you were going to spend it
striding around like a vivid god,
your shoulders in the clouds,
or sitting down there amidst the wallpaper,
staring straight ahead with your little plastic face?
Happy birthday, poet man.