This is the official blog of Northern Arizona slam poet Christopher Fox Graham. Begun in 2002, and transferred to blogspot in 2006, FoxTheBlog has recorded more than 670,000 hits since 2009. This blog cover's Graham's poetry, the Arizona poetry slam community and offers tips for slam poets from sources around the Internet. Read CFG's full biography here. Looking for just that one poem? You know the one ... click here to find it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Don't forget Billy Collins

William “Billy” Collins (born 22 March 1941) is an American poet. He served two terms as the Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003. In his home state, Collins has been recognized as a Literary Lion of the New York Public Library (1992) and selected as the New York State Poet for 2004. He was recently appointed Claire Berman Artist in Residence at The Roxbury Latin School, in West Roxbury, MA. He is a distinguished professor at Lehman College of the City University of New York.

One of my favorite poets is former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins. He is not a slam poet, just one of the most brilliant writers I've come across. He pisses me off in that he could write a poem about dog's toes or knackwurst and it would be more brilliant than half the poems out there. To me, he sounds like Kevin Spacey. I own a great recording of "Billy Collins Live: A Performance at the Peter Norton Symphony Space April 20, 2005" where he is introduced by actor Bill Murray.
If you enjoy reading really great poetry that doesn't take a lifetime to decipher but still knocks you on your ass with its brilliance, pick up one of his poetry books. I own copies of the highlighted titles and often pull a poem or two out of them when I'm hosting the Sedona Poetry Open Mic.
* Pokerface (1977)
* Video Poems (1980)
* The Apple That Astonished Paris (1988)
* Questions About Angels (1991)
* The Art of Drowning (1995)
* Picnic, Lightning (1998)
* Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems (2001)
* Nine Horses (2002)
* The Trouble with Poetry (2005)
* She Was Just Seventeen (2006)
* Ballistics (2008)

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.

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