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The Trouble with Poetry

22 May 2012

This afternoon I left work and went to The Daily Planet for the first time since it opened back in December 2011. I had heard mixed reviews, and so far I am impressed by the look, but unimpressed with the coffee. I didn’t have any food there today, so will have to comment on that next time.

The Daily Planet is connected to Planet Books on Beaufort Street in Mount Lawley, so naturally, after I spent some time writing in the cafe, I moseyed over to the book shop and had a browse. I walked away with three new books: two short story collections, and a poetry collection called The Trouble with Poetry by Billy Collins.

I read this one in one hour!

In fact I didn’t just read it, I gobbled it up almost without chewing. And I wish I had bought his other three collections that were sitting on the shelf next to this one.

Some highlights:

  • the poem “Monday,” which begins like this:”The birds are in their trees,
    the toast is in the toaster,
    and the poets are at their windows.”

    and also includes this lovely stanza:

    “Just think–
    before the invention of the window,
    the poets would have had to put on a jacket
    and a winter hat to go outside
    or remain indoors with only a wall to stare at.”

  • the poem “Traveling Alone,” in which Billy Collins begins by saying:”At the hotel coffee shop that morning,
    the waitress was wearing a pink uniform
    with “Florence” written in script over her heart.”

    and goes on to tell how strange it is to travel alone and not have real conversations with anyone, and how he feels (wishes?) all the people he interacts with secretly want to get to know him personally.

  • the poem “In the Moment,” which does begin in the moment, then moves outside of the moment to consider how one actually “be’s” in a moment when there are so many questions running around in his head. An excerpt:”All I wanted was to be a pea of being
    inside the green pod of time,
    but that was not going to happen today,
    I had to admit to myself”

    and then, from the way I read it, he goes inside and does be in the moment, as he poaches some eggs.

  • He wants to be buried wearing pajamas and curled up like he’s sleeping instead of wearing a suit and lying on his back. I like this idea.
  • the poem “The Lanyard,” in which he reflects on making a lanyard for his mother at summer camp and gifting to her as thanks for everything she had ever done for him, as if that could ever be enough
  • the poem “See No Evil,” in which the monkeys covering the ears and the mouth leave, and the monkey covering the eyes doesn’t know it and stays there thinking there is still a monkey on either side of him
  • the poem “The Trouble with Poetry,” in which the trouble with poetry “is that it encourages the writing of more poetry,” …”And how will it ever end?
    unless the day finally arrives
    when we have compared everything in the world
    to everything else in the world”

    (This will never happen. Don’t worry.)

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