Billy Collins

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TSO uses a bit of Billy Collins (for a caption) that perfectly encapsulates my major difficulties with his work:

Video meliora, proboque; Deteriora sequor

As usual, I was thinking about the moments of the past,
letting my memory rush over them like water
rushing over the stones on the bottom of a stream.

The problem here is merely that there is nothing new--there is no insight or surprise. These are perfect as the lyrics of a love song destined to be a hit--but as poetry they suffer from overuse of the images. What is more ingrained in the mind of modernists and postmodernists than the "stream of consciousness?"

Billy Collins appeals to a great many because of his accessibility. And perhaps that is part of what disorients me. Poetry SHOULD be accessible, but it should also be coy--alluring on the surface and rich in depths and surprises for the person who stays around after the initial courting. Mr. Collins's work doesn't do this for me, and I so much wish it would.

On the other hand, if he opens a door to people, then there must be something I'm overlooking--some pleasure that comes from hearing something just as we ought to hear it, without being startled, shocked, or drubbed into insensibility by the poet's cleverness. One tires of the overwrought, the "shock of the new," the constant attempts to up-the-ante on the part of some poets. Perhaps Mr. Collins's work is merely a form of understatement a rebellion against the insistence that everything needs to be worked and overworked until we have a lump of coal we call a diamond because we're so impressed with what we've done to it. I need to consider and respect that as well. And so my reaction to Mr. Collins is really not a reflection on his work, so much as it is an ingrained reaction--a reaction that is perhaps provocative on its own--asking me what it is that cause me to kick against the goad.

Note: language revised in deference to a note from a friend. And apologies tendered to those inadvertantly disturbed by the original.

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It's a rare day when I can annoy you twice (i.e. Hitchens & Collins). I didn't know Collins from Adam before this morn, before I did a quick google for "nostalgia" and "poem" because I wanted a caption of some sort. I've removed the offending post.

FYI, I'd removed my post before I saw this post, because mine was too full of minutiae.

Dear TSO,

Whatever in the world would make you think you annoyed me? If I sound irascible it's probably because I have to work on the absolutely gorgeous FL day.

No, no. Hitchens was only by means of clarification, and there is a very bitter memory of Mother Teresa's funeral with Hitchens commentary. I don't like his stuff as much as Camille--and sorry if it came across as annoyed.

Honestly, I don't think you could annoy me. And, if on the off-chance you did, I would take it off line to make certain I understood before I flared up into full annoyance.

Sorry if I gave the wrong impression. AND glad to hear you had decided to remove the post before my own. My commentary on a caption (and I assumed that it was appropriate for the photo) should not induce anyone to move in the slightest with regard to their own work. I would be mortified if I thought that I had.

Thanks for writing and please rest assured, (or sigh in defeated frustration--whichever is more apropos), you haven't annoyed me in the least. You brought a bit of spark to the day. In case you couldn't tell by the first post, I got up on the wrong side of the bed.



No harm, no foul - understandable that we wouldn't agree on everything and obviously nothing wrong with that. Indeed you make some good points with regard to Mr. Collins. But then what would you expect from someone who calls himself "Billy" *grin*.

Dear TSO,

Yes, kudos on the Billy point--probably another burr under the saddle.





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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on January 16, 2006 1:46 PM.

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