IAM Encounter: Billy Collins on subdivisions

United States Poet Laureate Billy Collins read a number of his works during a plenary at the IAM Encounter 2009 gathering. I was already familiar with some of his work, though couldn’t have told you that without hearing specific poems.

His reading was fantastic, a very somber and almost monotone voice conveying common yet humorous observations. “A lot of poetry is born out of irritation,” he said.

One of his poems, The Golden Years, reminded me of a personal irritation I wrote about way back in 2006 in a post titled How to name a subdivision. In that entry I ask why subdivisions seem to be so randomly named after natural phenomena that bear no relevance to that particular location. Billy Collins asks the same question.

    The Golden Years
    All I do these drawn-out days
    is sit in my kitchen at Pheasant Ridge
    where there are no pheasant to be seen
    and last time I looked, no ridge.

    I could drive over to Quail Falls
    and spend the day there playing bridge,
    but the lack of a falls and the absence of quail
    would just remind me of Pheasant Ridge.

    I know a widow at Fox Run
    and another with a condo at Smokey Ledge.
    One of them smokes, and neither can run,
    so I’ll stick to the pledge I made to Midge.

    Who frightened the fox and bulldozed the ledge?
    I ask in my kitchen at Pheasant Ridge.

The Golden Years is from Collins’ Ballistic: Poems (Amazon link). It’s well worth owning a book or two of his poems; I bought The Art of Drowning at the conference.


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at pcNielsen.com.

One Response to IAM Encounter: Billy Collins on subdivisions

  1. Tim J. says:

    That’s a neat poem. It really should be set to music… preferably something that could be sung loudly in a pub.

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