Friday, March 2, 2012

Billy Collins poem: Pornography

I have recently been reading "The Poet Laureate Anthology", with a complete list of all the US Poet Laureates from the beginning (Joseph Auslander) to 2010- (W.S. Merwin) and found myself stopping at Billy Collins, who was US Poet Laureate from 2001-2003. His poem Litany, which I happened across on youtube, is brilliant and funny. Most of his poetry is whimsical and mocking and so, so clever. This one, I found particularly funny. I don't even know the reasons why, I just do.


In this sentimental painting of rustic life,
a rosy-cheeked fellow
in a broad hat and ballooning green pants
is twirling a peasant girl in a red frock
while a boy is playing a squeeze-box
near a turned-over barrel

upon which rests a knife, a jug, and a small drinking glass.
Two men in rough jackets
are playing cards at a wooden table.

And in the background a woman in a bonnet
stands behind the half-open Dutch door
talking to a merchant or a beggar who is leaning on a cane.

This is all I need to inject me with desire,
to fill me with the urge to lie down with you,
or someone very much like you,

on a cool marble floor or any fairly flat surface
as clouds going flying by
and the rustle of tall leafy trees

mixes with the notes of birdsong -
so clearly does the work speak of vanishing time,
obsolete musical instruments,

passing fancies, and the corpse
of the largely forgotten painter moldering
somewhere beneath the surface of present-day France.


  1. Dropping in to say hi form AUWN!

    1. C.M., I somehow missed this comment. I was on holiday at the time. Thanks for the "hello" - hello back. :)

  2. I love Billy Collins and I think Litany is one of my favorite poems ever...if you haven't seen the version of a kid reciting it I strongly suggest you watch it ( I'm a friend of Jenny's btw!

  3. Liwi,

    Thanks for the post.

    "Litany" is one of my favourite ever poems. I took a book of US Poet Laureates out of the library about a month ago and found that only Billy Collins was really interesting and I didn't like much else.

    I have seen all of the performances of Litany on one, including that one. I still prefer Collins' own of course. :)