Musical tables : poems

Billy Collins is a former U.S. Poet Laureate (2001 - 2003). Over the years he has become very well known for poems and for his poetry readings. "In 2002, as US poet laureate, Collins was asked to write a poem commemorating the first anniversary of the fall of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on September 11. The reading was in front of a joint session of Congress held outside of Washington, DC," and “One of Billy Collins’ most critically acclaimed works, “Fishing on the Susquehanna in July” has been added to the preserved works of the United States Native American literary registry as being deemed a culturally significant poem.” In this collection of very short poems, he has had some fun as well as insight.  These are not haikus, they are not limericks, and if you think these are easy to write, you have another challenge coming. Kind of like abstract art which might also look easy to do. Here is what Billy Collins has to say about the form: “Small poems are drastic examples of poetry’s way of squeezing large content into tight spaces. Unlike haiku, the small poem has no rules except to be small. Its length, or lack of it, is its only formal requirement.”  His poems are pithy, humorous, and wise, and here is a selection that truly do not need any explication:



When I repeated “There, there …” 

my sobbing daughter 

accused me 

of quoting Gertrude Stein  


“The Exception”

Whoever said 

there’s a poem lurking in the darkness 

of every pencil 

was not thinking of this one.



Desirable in fiction. 

Not so much 

with a slim book of poems.


“Jazz Man”

I’ve taken some lessons

and worked on 

some nice voicings for the chords


but all I have to do

is raise the keyboard cover one inch

and the cat dashes from the room.


“Carpe Diem”

As the coffee was brewing, 

I learned from a book

that the trunks of elephants

are sensitive enough

to pick up a coin

and powerful enough to smash

a tiger to the ground, 

and that was more than

enough seizing the day for me.


And, maybe something for Earth Day:



Even on a calm day

if you remain quiet and hold your breath, 


you still will not

be able to hear

the singing of the clouds.




Books by Billy Collins can be found here.