Love and Death

August 16, 2014

Love and Death

Billy Collins' poetry reading at the Parade Tower ranged from house pets to breakfast cereal, there was even a poem about choosing the subject matter for a poem.

The subject matter covered in Billy Collin’s poetry reading at the castle Parade Tower this evening ranged from house pets to breakfast cereal, there was even a poem about choosing the subject matter for a poem.

All poems are about love and death, he tells us. However, young adolescents always think they can come up with a new subject matter which no one has thought of – themselves. Later, he reads an affectionate love poem from a parent to their adolescent daughter:

To My Favorite 17-Year-Old High School Girl

Do you realize that if you had started
building the Parthenon on the day you were born
you would be all done in only two more years?
Of course, you would have needed lots of help,
so never mind, you’re fine just as you are.
You are loved for simply being yourself.
But did you know at your age Judy Garland
was pulling down $150,000 a picture,
Joan of Arc was leading the French army to victory,
and Blaise Pascal had cleaned up his room?
No, wait, I mean he had invented the calculator.
Of course, there will be time for all that later in your life
after you come out of your room
and begin to blossom, at least pick up all your socks.
For some reason, I keep remembering that Lady Jane Grey
was Queen of England when she was only fifteen
but then she was beheaded, so never mind her as a role model.
A few centuries later, when he was your age,
Franz Schubert was doing the dishes for his family,
but that did not keep him from composing two symphonies,
four operas, and two complete Masses, as a youngster.
But of course that was in Austria at the height
of romantic lyricism, not here in the suburbs of Cleveland.
Frankly, who cares if Annie Oakley was a crack shot at 15
or if Maria Callas debuted as Tosca at 17?
We think you are special by just being you,
playing with your food and staring into space.
By the way, I lied about Schubert doing the dishes,
but that doesn’t mean he never helped out around the house.

Billy Collins

It’s easy to see why Collins has become one of America’s most popular poets. Self deprecating and humourous, he brings an unpretentious humanity to the discipline. The punch lines of many of his poems evoke hearty laughter, but his real mastery lies in their subtle aftertaste.

-Dylan Haskins