Billy Collins: Writing on Writing about Writing

Hello Beautiful Thinkers,

collinsI’ve been thinking about poetry again.  A dangerous pass time, I know.  I mean you start thinking about poetry and suddenly you’re trying to write it, then submitting it, then getting all these rejection letters, and then you finally get a poem printed and it was somehow worth all the frustration of writing, rewriting, cutting lines you loved, and all that other business.  But don’t worry I’m not going to tell you the sad story of my life as a writer, there are plenty of movies out there about that already.  I’ve been thinking about exactly what I am doing: writing about writing.  And there is a poet that I really love who does this too: Billy Collins.  I was going through his work and found three poems that stood out to me: “Budapest”, “Introduction to Poetry”, and “Workshop.”

6a00d83451949969e200e54f3b70708833-640wiThe first of these three poems, “Budapest”, talks about writing as if the pen is alive.  I want to say most, if not all, writers have had the thought that the words aren’t really coming from them but just coming through them and landing on the page.  By now that thought is so implanted in us because some famous person said it.  Even if it’s only for a second we still think it before realizing it’s total bull and the words are coming from us.  As the poem goes on, the speaker gives all the credit to the pen and claims to be thinking about places he’s never been.  I don’t agree with giving away my credit like this, I like to gloat I guess.  But the poem does highlight the mentality of the poet well.

So many people get their English degrees and go on to teach.  This is seems even more likely with a Creative Writing degree.  “Introduction to Poetry” captures the frustration that all of these fresh new teachers will experience.  Collins comments on the flaws of mixing creative writing and education in the poem.  The speaker wants the students to truly experience the writing but they’re all too concerned with “finding the meaning of poetry” for a grade then actually expressing themselves.

img_1819Workshop”, my favorite Billy Collins poem, is an excellent example of his sarcastic sense of humor.  If you’ve ever sat through a workshop you’ll usually find yourself laughing as each stanza comments on itself.  For those of you that are unfamiliar with the concept of a workshop, it’s when a group of writers gather to try and improve a draft of writing.  The poem pulls every type of vague and useless remark you’d hear in a workshop and turns them into jokes, sort of like a roast of the workshop concept.  We can all read it and laugh knowing that we’re guilty of saying these things too.

Billy Collins writes about many other subjects; he didn’t get to be a poet laureate for being one dimensional after all.  These three are my favorites from the great mind of this American poet.  He has published nine poetry books of his own and edited or introduced ten others.  For those that prefer to experience poetry out loud instead of reading it to themselves Collins also has two CDs of his work and a DVD that records him touring as a poet laureate.  There’s also a free download of some of his recorded works on his website.  This is a cool way to get a preview of Collins’ writings to know for sure if you’ll enjoy it before buying a hardcopy.

photo-1Keep Learning Beautiful Thinkers,

The Boy In The Heart Shades

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