Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Billy Collins at the Edinbugh Book Festival

Last night at the Billy Collins poetry show
I took the last seat in the tent
beside a middle-aged American couple.

The husband turned to his wife and said,
“I wonder if anyone here will know
who you are.” The wife was silent.

And I thought this was exactly
the kind of thing that often happens
in a Billy Collins poem.

As I began to write it in my head
I sneaked a look, and felt disappointed
that I didn’t know who the wife was,

the shape of her face like a lizard
blown up to A3 by a photocopier
and pasted to every wall in the city.

Do you know who I am? it might shriek
to innocent passers by who know nothing
of poetry and probably don’t care.

And when Billy Collins takes the stage
and suggests that poetry might end
only when poets have finally compared

everything to everything else,
and at this, and everything else,
the crowd and I crease in laughter,

I realise I have never known him
beyond thumbnails on dustjackets
and a casual scratch of words in books.

Afterwards at the signing desk, he smiles,
asks pertinent questions, shakes my hand,
as if nothing could be more important.

He is like that incomparable something
which might remind you of something
hours after all comparisons have been made.


Myron said...

*snuck*, my dear Robbie. God bless you.

C. E. Chaffin said...

As I said, "How can you not like Billy Collins?" It's nearly impossible, I'm told. Nice quotidian account of the tent meeting.

Rob Mackenzie said...

Well, on the page, he doesn't impress me much, except for a few poems.
But he is a brilliant performer - with a great sense of humour - and he does come over as a very likeable person.

Aisha said...

Loved this:
the shape of her face like a lizard
blown up to A3 by a photocopier
and pasted to every wall in the city.

Oh but who was she?
maybe someone from BAP 2005??
Linda Gregg? Rita Dove? Cookala?
Or from American Idol?

Very interesting to have a
handshake 's view of BC himself.

And a good poem.

Rob Mackenzie said...

I've no idea who it was, I'm afraid, although I know it wasn't Cookala or Rita Dove, and somehow American Idol doesn't fit. She looked as if she might have taught at some college or other and may have a had a few books out. That's my guess.

The place was full of poets though, some quite well known, and it was the same for Paul Muldoon's performance.

Cailleach said...

Really nice piece Rob, I love aisha's comment about it being a 'handshake view' of a poet.

Remember, they are trying to get you to like them - otherwise you'd never engage in the poetry ;¬)

Rob Mackenzie said...

Billy Collins is a master of public relations, that's true, a real professional. But behind it, it's hard to believe he isn't also a genuinely nice guy.

On the other hand, I read a few of his poems last night, and they were annoyingly poor. Performance is definitely the way to 'read' him.

Alan said...

I'm Alan King, a writer living in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.
I have a chapbook that I would love to trade for one of yours. Writing samples
are available at http://myspace.com/alanking81 and http://myspace.com/bustransfer.

If after reading the samples you are interested in swapping, please provide a mailing address for me to send a copy.

Thank you in advance. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Until then,