Friday, February 11, 2005

In Search of a Favorite Poem

Picking one favorite poem is not an easy thing to do. Do you pick one that is universally accepted as really great? Or perhaps one that tugs at your emotional heartstrings? What are the criteria for such a difficult choice?

I have been intrigued with the poetry of Billy Collins for the last year. Not because it will show up on the list of “The Top 100 Poems of All Time”. But rather because Billy Collins talks about just plain ordinary things and makes me think about them in a new light – every time!

As I get older and watch my memory slowly get a little rusty, this poem seems to sum it all up so nicely:


The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read, never
even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

--Billy Collins

So for today, this is my top runner. Will I remember it by February 27?


Anonymous Daniel Diskin said...

Nice poem.

12:51 AM  

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