Thursday, October 07, 2004


Today is National Poetry day and this is one of my favorite poems, by one of my favorite poets, Billy Collins.


You are so beautiful and I am a fool

to be in love with you
is a theme that keeps coming up
in songs and poems.
There seems to be no room for variation.
I have never heard anyone sing
I am so beautiful
and you are a fool to be in love with me,
even though this notion has surely
crossed the minds of women and men alike.
You are so beautiful, too bad you are a fool
is another one you don't hear.
Or, you are a fool to consider me beautiful.
That one you will never hear, guaranteed.

For no particular reason this afternoon
I am listening to Johnny Hartman
whose dark voice can curl around
the concepts on love, beauty, and foolishness
like no one else's can.
It feels like smoke curling up from a cigarette
someone left burning on a baby grand piano
around three o'clock in the morning;
smoke that billows up into the bright lights
while out there in the darkness
some of the beautiful fools have gathered
around little tables to listen,
some with their eyes closed,
others leaning forward into the music
as if it were holding them up,
or twirling the loose ice in a glass,
slipping by degrees into a rhythmic dream.

Yes, there is all this foolish beauty,
borne beyond midnight,
that has no desire to go home,
especially now when everyone in the room
is watching the large man with the tenor sax
that hangs from his neck like a golden fish.
He moves forward to the edge of the stage
and hands the instrument down to me
and nods that I should play.
So I put the mouthpiece to my lips
and blow into it with all my living breath.
We are all so foolish,
my long bebop solo begins by saying,
so damn foolish
we have become beautiful without even knowing it.

Billy Collins

My favorite poem when I was a little girl was The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes and I still have the tattered book of poems that my mom first read to me from. There are illustrations of all the poems, and the illustration for that poem is of a beautiful young woman tied to a bedpost with a musket shoved between her breasts. And in the distance at the top of the page is another illustration of her lover, the highwayman riding toward her through the night. And he's totally hot. In retrospect probably not the best poem to read to an impressionably 6 year old with a predisposition for romanticism.

Other poets I love, love, love are Pablo Neruda, William Shakespeare, Shel Silverstein, Roald Dahl, Sylvia Plath, Maya Angelou, T.S. Eliot (The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock rocks! - check it out), Leonard Cohen, e.e. cummings, Dorothy Parker and Dr. Seuss, who may not be considered a poet but he played with words and did so very well and that is, in my opinion, what makes a poet.

If you have a favorite poem or poet that you'd like to revisit, or if you'd just like to cruise around and see what appeals to you I highly recommend a visit to Poem Hunter, a great place to reconnect with old friends and make new ones!

Happy National Poetry Day!

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