"I knew that poets seemed to be miserable," says writer Billy Collins about his younger self, yearning to fit in. While he admits he "faked a miserable character" at the start of his career, he's since embraced his sense of humor.
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New collection of poetry from the guy that turned an English major/English teacher away from being a closeted and then self-outed poetryphobe.
Honestly, though attracted to the lyrics of Dylan and several other lyricists in what grew to become a fairly wide span of music; including great lyricists such as Gershwin, Porter, and Berlin, I really found too few needles in the poetry haystack to become sufficiently engaged to continue searching for reasons to read "unassigned" poetry.
e.e.cummings'? To my default (and admittedly faulty) "engage me first" resistance to poetry, his capitalization quirkiness was about as much as I found interesting. Though I never knew or cared to find out why he didn't capitalize.
Poe? Yeah he was attractive in the sort of hypnotic beat of his lyrics and the darkly intriguing topics he wrote about. But, I was also led to believe that liking Poe was, well, "nice! But...Really, a second rate popularist at best."
(SIDE TRIP) Though fewer and fewer now, In many dictionaries, the first definition of "Nice" is "foolish" or "stupid."
Etymology: Middle English nice "foolish, stupid," from early French nice (same meaning), from Latin nescius"ignorant," from nescire "not to know," from ne- "not" and scire "to know."
I don't know.. I liked Poe. He wasn't second-rate to me. He was interesting, unlike all those "first-rate" poets I was told were worth reading.
Frost? Yeah. He made sense to me, probably because he "wrote in English," a term I used loosely to mean "at least he wrote like people I knew talked." And, by the time I first encountered Frost, I was at least a bit more receptive to literature beyond the extremely narrow range of poetry I'd allowed myself not to hate in earlier days. The Road Not Taken" gave me pause to wonder about things I'd never wondered much about before. "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" surprised me in ways I'd never been surprised before. I'd never lived or spent much time in the woods, never been nearer to a horse than Mr. Ed on the TV in our living room, and snow? Not in the San Francisco Bay Area where I grew up. But, the idea of stopping to appreciate the previously unappreciated, and then choosing to stop because I had promises to keep, and "more important" things to do that really might not have been more important struck a deep note.
Maybe because it was the late 60s and I was coming out of the cocoon of obliviousness that "late bloomers" like myself found "too comfortable for too long," I was intrigued by my first encounter with Langston Hughes. He spoke English. He wrote about the issues of the 1960s even though he had written "Harlem (Dream Deferred)." and "I Too Sing America" decades before and I had had no idea who he was or even that he was still alive when I first read him. His poetry had resonance in the 60s. It had relevance. They spoke of the world I lived in. They permeated my cocoon.
But, it wasn't until I discovered Billy Collins, that I found myself so intrigued by a particular poet that I made it my business to go out and read everything I could find that he had written.
It was sort of like when The Beatles came along and in what seemed like an unprecedented phenomenon, so much is unprecedented when one exists in a cocoon of obliviousness!, they wrote their own lyrics and somehow produced albums that were NOT all B-side crap that you had to buy in order to get the one song you and everybody else wanted. Every song was a song you wanted.
Every poem Billy Collins published seemed to be a great poem.
But, that's what happens when we begin to struggle our way out of those very comfortable cocoons of obliviousness.
My favorite reference in this interview was that Billy Collins put the fun back in profundity. He did and I did not have to be forced to read another word he wrote. I was a die-hard fan.
Gotta stop, I'm off to get my copy of his new work!
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