I’m delighted to be joining the celebration of former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins and his 76th birthday on March 22nd. (Thanks to Heidi Mordhorst and others for the suggestion and heads-up on this!)
Though I don’t have any complete books of Billy Collins’ poetry, I’ve come across many of his poems online and have heard him read and lecture on YouTube. I always enjoy his work. To me it has a Seinfeld-ish vibe—poetry about little inconsequential things that are almost nothing, but in his hands become big, consequential metaphors of life and relationships.
The Poetry Foundation is where I found the poem of his that jumped out at me for today’s celebration. We in Canada are celebrating too. This year is our 150th Anniversary as a country. I’m helping to edit, for our local poetry society, an anthology in honour of that birthday, so I’ve read quite a few poems about Canada lately and was delighted to find a poem of Billy Collins’ called “Canada.”
Canada Bag – Photo © 2017 by V. Nesdoly
– Billy Collins
I am writing this on a strip of white birch bark
that I cut from a tree with a penknife.
There is no other way to express adequately
the immensity of the clouds that are passing over the farms
and wooded lakes of Ontario and the endless visibility
that hands you the horizon on a platter.
I am also writing this in a wooden canoe,
a point of balance in the middle of Lake Couchiching,
resting the birch bark against my knees…
Read the rest…
I used Collins’ “Canada” as a mentor poem for my own Canada poem:
– Violet Nesdoly
I am writing this on a beaver tail
that my camera captured
beside a dammed prairie stream
under a canopy of blue
that sets off bordering quilt blocks
of yellow, brown and gold.
I am also writing this in Tim Horton’s
where I have just rolled up the rim
to “Please Play Again”
and am thinking of ordering
another coffee along with more hope
of a CRV, TV or even a Tim’s card
to help colour the long white winter.
O Canada, as the anthem goes,
scene of massive mountains
and mosquitoey lakes,
you are the memory of Mountain Lake,
the one-room school on the Saskatchewan prairie
where I learned to skate and spool knit
play Rook and binge read
sumptuous fare: Pookie and Old Yeller
My Friend Flicka and Thunderhead
Caddie Woodlawn, White Fang
Pat of Silverbush and Mistress Pat
which wondrously arrived
from time to time
in a traveling box.
O Canada, I want to be friends
as long as my memory lasts
to snap the bluebells in spring
and herons in fall,
cool off with Iced Capps® in summer
hibernate with poutine in winter
knit toques and pick Saskatoon berries
with only the occasional foray
over the line.
See that north-moving row of cars
approaching the Aldergrove crossing?
The woman in the passenger seat
of the blue Honda
wiping Edaleen ice-cream off her hands
before she digs for her passport
© 2017 (All rights reserved)
Happy Birthday, Billy Collins (and Heidi Mordhorst, who also has a birthday in March)!
This post is linked to Poetry Friday, hosted this week by Heidi Mordhorst and her blog My Juicy Little Universe.