Billy Collins, 2002 Poet Laureate of the United States
“Poetry is like fish: if it’s fresh, it’s good; if it’s stale, it’s bad;–Osbert Sitwell
and if you’re not certain, try it on the cat.”
Humor is Blooming All Over
Join us Tuesday, April 27 at 6 pm PDT for a mindful gaze at Billy Collins – our featured poet for the month of April. His wry humor, witty observations, and conversational style have made him one of America’s most popular poets.
As the 2002 Poet Laureate of the United States, Collins took a particular interest in making poetry “accessible” for the general public, creating an on-line database with the Library of Congress called Poetry 180, which encouraged a daily reading of poetry for students. In his typical humorous way, he describes his purpose as a poet by saying, “Poetry is my cheap means of transportation. By the end of the poem the reader should be in a different place from where he started. I would like him to be slightly disoriented at the end, like I drove him outside of town at night and dropped him off in a cornfield. Poems, for me, begin as a social engagement.”
Collins finds the everyday world both absurd and fascinating and delights in playing along with his readers as he explores his subjects with wordplay, irony, wit, irreverence and subtle satire. He’ll leave you laughing longer than you expected. A sampling to whet your appetite: Forgetfulness, Questions About Angels, and Snow Day. Also, enjoy the great videos below!
This month’s session of Mindful Poetry, we’ll ENJOY the humor of poets at play – how poets use words to summon a smile, encourage a laugh, and delight our days.
We all love a good giggle, an amused chortle, a sly snicker – and poets, too, relish the chance to play with words to delight the reader. Even some of the most profound poets, like William Shakespeare and T. S. Eliot, can’t resist the urge to be funny. In Shakespeare’s Sonnet 30, “My Mistress Eyes are Nothing like the Sun,” he pokes fun at the conventions of Elizabethan poetry to excessively praise the beauty of a loved one, and famously writes:
I have seen roses damasked red and
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes are there more
Than in the breath that from my
T. S. Eliot took a turn at whimsy with his 1939 publication of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, and the absurd notion of singing and dancing cats with soulful thoughts took Broadway by storm. Understandably, who can resist Eliot’s opening verse?
The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
Recognize a bit of Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein? We can see how Eliot’s humor trickles down into the verses of some or our most beloved childhood poets, and don’t we remember those anthologies with glee whether it’s The Cat in the Hat Comes Back or Where the Sidewalk Ends?
We’d love to hear about favorite poems from your childhood – bring one to share.
You’ll want to make time to watch these two videos!
Mindful Poetry meets Tuesday, April 27 at 6 pm PDT via Zoom.
If joining by phone: Meeting ID: 503 653 606
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