Saving Billy Collins from the resale stack


Dear Lila,

We haven’t met. In the event you live in Indianapolis, I have changed your name. I’m writing to find out why you sold an autographed first edition of Billy Collins’ Ballistics that was inscribed to you.

What do you mean, “Who is Billy Collins?” He — he — sit down, Lila. Let’s have a drink.

Billy Collins is a poet. He’s a poet who makes poetry accessible for everyone, including people who probably recoil at the very mention of the craft. He’s the former Poet Laureate of the United States. He writes scenes you can immediately see. From “Searching”:

"…you were the reason / I kept my light on late into the night / turning all those pages, searching for you everywhere.”

Dude, he’s talking to a gorilla. His tone has a sense of longing that makes a reader wistful… even for primates. He’s also funny! From “The Poems of Others”:

“Is there no end to it / the way they keep popping up in magazines / … not even the government can put a stop to it.”

The government, Lila! That’s fun— no dice? Okay. How about this description of insomnia from “Aubade”:

“I am not the man across the street / who sits in the dark because sleep / is his mother and he is one of her many orphans.”

I’ve dealt with insomnia. It’s not pretty and poetic. It’s irritating and makes a person stabby.

He’s seductive, too. From “January in Paris” in which he imagines finishing a poem abandoned by French poet Paul Valéry:


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