Friday, November 15, 2013

Poetry Friday -- Billy Collins' New Book

by Billy Collins
Random House, October 22, 2013
review copy is mine


The first line will not go away
though the middle ones will disappear,
and the third, like the first, is bound to get more play.

Examples of this type are written every day,
and whether uplifting or drear,
that first line will just not go away.

It seems some lines have the right of way.
It's their job to reappear,
for example, the third, designed to get more play.

Whether you squawk like an African Grey
or sing sweetly to the inner ear,
the line you wrote first will just not go away.

You may compose all night and day
under a bare lightbulb or a crystal chandelier,
but line number three must get more play.

How can a poet hope to go wildly astray
or sing out like a romantic gondolier
when the first line will not go away
and the third always has the final say?

©Billy Collins, 2013

What fun to have a new collection of poems from four earlier volumes that includes a nice serving of new poems, too! Here are some highlights of the new poems:

Besides this villanelle, there is a surprising sonnet and an Ode to a Desk Lamp.

Collins talks (sometimes back) to Li Po, Antonín Dvořák, people (and ducks) who suggest poem topics, Keats and Mother Nature.

The poems will take you to Nebraska, Central Park, Flying Point Beach, France, Rome, Florida and West Texas, among other destinations.

I think this book will be my birthday present to me, and on my birthday weekend, I plan to stay curled up under the covers for hours and hours, revisiting old favorites and savoring all of the new poems.

Jama has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Jama's Alphabet Soup.


  1. A friend gave me this book as a random gift a week ago and I couldn't feel luckier. The first poem from Nine Horses is my all-time favorite of his. Then I heard him read one of the new poems (To My Favorite 17-Year Old High School Girl) with Stephen Colbert and it became a new favorite. I've barely scratched the surface so far as I savor each poem.

  2. Adding this one to my Wish List. Like your idea of how to spend your birthday!

  3. Another new one to purchase, Mary Lee. My poetry list grows! I know this must be good, thanks for telling just enough to make us all want to run out right now!

  4. Anonymous10:20 AM

    Happy Friday! :)

  5. I love Billy Collins--Thank you for bringing his new book to my attention! Happy Birthday, Mary Lee!

    Here's a birthday poem for you:

    Birthday Lights by Calef Brown

    Light bulbs on a birthday cake.
    What a difference that would make!
    Plug it in and make a wish,
    then relax and flip a switch!
    No more smoke
    or waxy mess
    to bother any birthday guests.
    ( find the rest here: ) I originally found it on a Birthday Poem search last month--More birthday poems here, for you to browse and enjoy : )

  6. Anonymous5:51 PM

    One for the the pile. Thanks, Mary Lee.

  7. My birthday is about 9 months away, even though I got my gift from my sister today. (What a surprise!) But I will ask for this one for Christmas. This and Mary Oliver's new one. I love them both and for different reasons, or maybe the same one. They write accessible poems that make me feel good inside.

  8. I've got the library's copy on my kitchen table right now! I look forward to diving in.

  9. Thank you, Mary Lee. Curious when your birthday is. Mine is today, so thanks for my present! I love Billy Collins and this is a treat to read, the Villanelle I have never tried. Can't wait to get a copy of this!!
    Janet F.
    See you soon!
    IF you have any good suggestions for "not to miss" sessions do let me know via email or PM IF you have any time. I imagine you might be in the report card time period......but would love to know your favorites.....

  10. This one's already on my wish as well, though I'm not sure how long I'll be able to wait. Happy birthday to you, Mary Lee!

  11. What a droll villanelle. It seems I'm encountering a theme today and that is not to take writing poems too seriously. This fits right in!
    Violet N.

  12. Billy Collins is brilliant. I should read more of his poems and get his books so I can just hear him in my ears. That would be so much fun. I shall definitely check out this new book. Happy Birthday, Mary Lee! What a good idea to curl up and spend time with poetry. :)

  13. Oh my gosh that villanelle

  14. It wouldn't let me finish! That villanelle is wonderful - so humorous, and then on deeper reading profound too. Thanks for sharing this new collection, Mary Lee -happy birthday, too!

  15. Happy birthday. Thanks for sharing your birthday present.

  16. Happy birthday, Mary lee - this book sounds like the perfect birthday gift to anyone who enjoys reading!

  17. Hahaha, this is a fabulous villanelle. Thanks for sharing it. I have to get that book, stat.

  18. Happy birthday, Mary Lee (a couple of days late).

    BTW: Did you see the piece on Billy Collins in yesterday's NY Times? Here's the link in case you missed it:

  19. A belated happy birthday, Mary Lee!! What an excellent gift :-)


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