Friday, July 26, 2013

My new favorite poet Billy Collins, who was Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 until 2003. He knows whereof he speaks, at least in the poem below. Reading it became all the more touching poignant frustrating when I discovered that Mr. Collins is exactly four days younger than moi, having been born on March 22, 1941.

by Billy Collins

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 names of 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 bicycle.

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.

(end of poem)

On some days, I could have written that poem myself, except for one thing. Make that two things. I will never, ever, forget how to swim or how to ride a bicycle. Want to know why? It’s because I never learned how to swim or how to ride a bicycle in the first place.

There is absolutely nothing as refreshing as confessional journalism.


  1. What a lovely poem Sir RWP. Thank you for sharing it. Though I am not that fussed by his turn of phrase 'southern hemisphere of the brain' ~ nothing void about the southern hemisphere :). BTW, I am still working on your list of Aussie Prime Ministers and should have something published this weekend. Have a good one.

  2. Carol, it's not my list, it's your list! And I am looking forward to it.

    P.S. - You are mentioned in my next post.

  3. True, it is my list. Ooh, should I be worried about your next post. BTW, I love your choice of "blue" music and "blue" artwork on Yorky's blog. I dunno about him, they made me smile :)

  4. Carol (in Cairns), you may be seeing them again soon....

  5. Oh he's great isn't he?! I've liked him for a couple of years now, and remember one of the first I read was 'Taking off Emily Dickinson's Clothes' - the title alone had me keen to read more. 'Forgetfullness' is an excellent choice, a favourite of mine, along with 'I Go Back to the House for a Book', both of which I shall now post on my blog as you have reminded me of them, so thank you for that.