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Best Famous Billy Collins Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous Billy Collins poems. This is a select list of the best famous Billy Collins poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous Billy Collins poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of Billy Collins poems.

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Written by Billy Collins |


 Remember the 1340's? We were doing a dance called the Catapult.
You always wore brown, the color craze of the decade, and I was draped in one of those capes that were popular, the ones with unicorns and pomegranates in needlework.
Everyone would pause for beer and onions in the afternoon, and at night we would play a game called "Find the Cow.
" Everything was hand-lettered then, not like today.
Where has the summer of 1572 gone? Brocade and sonnet marathons were the rage.
We used to dress up in the flags of rival baronies and conquer one another in cold rooms of stone.
Out on the dance floor we were all doing the Struggle while your sister practiced the Daphne all alone in her room.
We borrowed the jargon of farriers for our slang.
These days language seems transparent a badly broken code.
The 1790's will never come again.
Childhood was big.
People would take walks to the very tops of hills and write down what they saw in their journals without speaking.
Our collars were high and our hats were extremely soft.
We would surprise each other with alphabets made of twigs.
It was a wonderful time to be alive, or even dead.
I am very fond of the period between 1815 and 1821.
Europe trembled while we sat still for our portraits.
And I would love to return to 1901 if only for a moment, time enough to wind up a music box and do a few dance steps, or shoot me back to 1922 or 1941, or at least let me recapture the serenity of last month when we picked berries and glided through afternoons in a canoe.
Even this morning would be an improvement over the present.
I was in the garden then, surrounded by the hum of bees and the Latin names of flowers, watching the early light flash off the slanted windows of the greenhouse and silver the limbs on the rows of dark hemlocks.
As usual, I was thinking about the moments of the past, letting my memory rush over them like water rushing over the stones on the bottom of a stream.
I was even thinking a little about the future, that place where people are doing a dance we cannot imagine, a dance whose name we can only guess.

Written by Billy Collins |


 Today I pass the time reading
a favorite haiku,
saying the few words over and over.
It feels like eating the same small, perfect grape again and again.
I walk through the house reciting it and leave its letters falling through the air of every room.
I stand by the big silence of the piano and say it.
I say it in front of a painting of the sea.
I tap out its rhythm on an empty shelf.
I listen to myself saying it, then I say it without listening, then I hear it without saying it.
And when the dog looks up at me, I kneel down on the floor and whisper it into each of his long white ears.
It's the one about the one-ton temple bell with the moth sleeping on its surface, and every time I say it, I feel the excruciating pressure of the moth on the surface of the iron bell.
When I say it at the window, the bell is the world and I am the moth resting there.
When I say it at the mirror, I am the heavy bell and the moth is life with its papery wings.
And later, when I say it to you in the dark, you are the bell, and I am the tongue of the bell, ringing you, and the moth has flown from its line and moves like a hinge in the air above our bed.

Written by Billy Collins |


 They say you can jinx a poem
if you talk about it before it is done.
If you let it out too early, they warn, your poem will fly away, and this time they are absolutely right.
Take the night I mentioned to you I wanted to write about the madmen, as the newspapers so blithely call them, who attack art, not in reviews, but with breadknives and hammers in the quiet museums of Prague and Amsterdam.
Actually, they are the real artists, you said, spinning the ice in your glass.
The screwdriver is their brush.
The real vandals are the restorers, you went on, slowly turning me upside-down, the ones in the white doctor's smocks who close the wound in the landscape, and thus ruin the true art of the mad.
I watched my poem fly down to the front of the bar and hover there until the next customer walked in-- then I watched it fly out the open door into the night and sail away, I could only imagine, over the dark tenements of the city.
All I had wished to say was that art was also short, as a razor can teach with a slash or two, that it only seems long compared to life, but that night, I drove home alone with nothing swinging in the cage of my heart except the faint hope that I might catch a glimpse of the thing in the fan of my headlights, maybe perched on a road sign or a street lamp, poor unwritten bird, its wings folded, staring down at me with tiny illuminated eyes.

More great poems below...

Written by Billy Collins |

Man Listening To Disc

 This is not bad --
ambling along 44th Street
with Sonny Rollins for company,
his music flowing through the soft calipers
of these earphones,

as if he were right beside me
on this clear day in March,
the pavement sparkling with sunlight,
pigeons fluttering off the curb,
nodding over a profusion of bread crumbs.
In fact, I would say my delight at being suffused with phrases from his saxophone -- some like honey, some like vinegar -- is surpassed only by my gratitude to Tommy Potter for taking the time to join us on this breezy afternoon with his most unwieldy bass and to the esteemed Arthur Taylor who is somehow managing to navigate this crowd with his cumbersome drums.
And I bow deeply to Thelonious Monk for figuring out a way to motorize -- or whatever -- his huge piano so he could be with us today.
This music is loud yet so confidential.
I cannot help feeling even more like the center of the universe than usual as I walk along to a rapid little version of "The Way You Look Tonight," and all I can say to my fellow pedestrians, to the woman in the white sweater, the man in the tan raincoat and the heavy glasses, who mistake themselves for the center of the universe -- all I can say is watch your step, because the five of us, instruments and all, are about to angle over to the south side of the street and then, in our own tightly knit way, turn the corner at Sixth Avenue.
And if any of you are curious about where this aggregation, this whole battery-powered crew, is headed, let us just say that the real center of the universe, the only true point of view, is full of hope that he, the hub of the cosmos with his hair blown sideways, will eventually make it all the way downtown.

Written by Billy Collins |


 It could be the name of a prehistoric beast
that roamed the Paleozoic earth, rising up
on its hind legs to show off its large vocabulary,
or some lover in a myth who is metamorphosed into a book.
It means treasury, but it is just a place where words congregate with their relatives, a big park where hundreds of family reunions are always being held, house, home, abode, dwelling, lodgings, and digs, all sharing the same picnic basket and thermos; hairy, hirsute, woolly, furry, fleecy, and shaggy all running a sack race or throwing horseshoes, inert, static, motionless, fixed and immobile standing and kneeling in rows for a group photograph.
Here father is next to sire and brother close to sibling, separated only by fine shades of meaning.
And every group has its odd cousin, the one who traveled the farthest to be here: astereognosis, polydipsia, or some eleven syllable, unpronounceable substitute for the word tool.
Even their own relatives have to squint at their name tags.
I can see my own copy up on a high shelf.
I rarely open it, because I know there is no such thing as a synonym and because I get nervous around people who always assemble with their own kind, forming clubs and nailing signs to closed front doors while others huddle alone in the dark streets.
I would rather see words out on their own, away from their families and the warehouse of Roget, wandering the world where they sometimes fall in love with a completely different word.
Surely, you have seen pairs of them standing forever next to each other on the same line inside a poem, a small chapel where weddings like these, between perfect strangers, can take place.

Written by Billy Collins |

I Ask You

 What scene would I want to be enveloped in
more than this one,
an ordinary night at the kitchen table,
floral wallpaper pressing in,
white cabinets full of glass,
the telephone silent,
a pen tilted back in my hand?

It gives me time to think
about all that is going on outside--
leaves gathering in corners,
lichen greening the high grey rocks,
while over the dunes the world sails on,
huge, ocean-going, history bubbling in its wake.
But beyond this table there is nothing that I need, not even a job that would allow me to row to work, or a coffee-colored Aston Martin DB4 with cracked green leather seats.
No, it's all here, the clear ovals of a glass of water, a small crate of oranges, a book on Stalin, not to mention the odd snarling fish in a frame on the wall, and the way these three candles-- each a different height-- are singing in perfect harmony.
So forgive me if I lower my head now and listen to the short bass candle as he takes a solo while my heart thrums under my shirt-- frog at the edge of a pond-- and my thoughts fly off to a province made of one enormous sky and about a million empty branches.

Written by Billy Collins |


 Smokey the Bear heads
into the autumn woods
with a red can of gasoline
and a box of wooden matches.
His ranger's hat is cocked at a disturbing angle.
His brown fur gleams under the high sun as his paws, the size of catcher's mitts, crackle into the distance.
He is sick of dispensing warnings to the careless, the half-wit camper, the dumbbell hiker.
He is going to show them how a professional does it.

Written by Billy Collins |

Candle Hat

 In most self-portraits it is the face that dominates:
Cezanne is a pair of eyes swimming in brushstrokes,
Van Gogh stares out of a halo of swirling darkness,
Rembrant looks relieved as if he were taking a breather
from painting The Blinding of Sampson.
But in this one Goya stands well back from the mirror and is seen posed in the clutter of his studio addressing a canvas tilted back on a tall easel.
He appears to be smiling out at us as if he knew we would be amused by the extraordinary hat on his head which is fitted around the brim with candle holders, a device that allowed him to work into the night.
You can only wonder what it would be like to be wearing such a chandelier on your head as if you were a walking dining room or concert hall.
But once you see this hat there is no need to read any biography of Goya or to memorize his dates.
To understand Goya you only have to imagine him lighting the candles one by one, then placing the hat on his head, ready for a night of work.
Imagine him surprising his wife with his new invention, the laughing like a birthday cake when she saw the glow.
Imagine him flickering through the rooms of his house with all the shadows flying across the walls.
Imagine a lost traveler knocking on his door one dark night in the hill country of Spain.
"Come in, " he would say, "I was just painting myself," as he stood in the doorway holding up the wand of a brush, illuminated in the blaze of his famous candle hat.

Written by Billy Collins |


 There is a section in my library for death
and another for Irish history,
a few shelves for the poetry of China and Japan,
and in the center a row of imperturbable reference books,
the ones you can turn to anytime,
when the night is going wrong
or when the day is full of empty promise.
I have nothing against the thin monograph, the odd query, a note on the identity of Chekhov's dentist, but what I prefer on days like these is to get up from the couch, pull down The History of the World, and hold in my hands a book containing nearly everything and weighing no more than a sack of potatoes, eleven pounds, I discovered one day when I placed it on the black, iron scale my mother used to keep in her kitchen, the device on which she would place a certain amount of flour, a certain amount of fish.
Open flat on my lap under a halo of lamplight, a book like this always has a way of soothing the nerves, quieting the riotous surf of information that foams around my waist even though it never mentions the silent labors of the poor, the daydreams of grocers and tailors, or the faces of men and women alone in single rooms- even though it never mentions my mother, now that I think of her again, who only last year rolled off the edge of the earth in her electric bed, in her smooth pink nightgown the bones of her fingers interlocked, her sunken eyes staring upward beyond all knowledge, beyond the tiny figures of history, some in uniform, some not, marching onto the pages of this incredibly heavy book.

Written by Billy Collins |

Another Reason Why I Dont Keep A Gun In The House

 The neighbors' dog will not stop barking.
He is barking the same high, rhythmic bark that he barks every time they leave the house.
They must switch him on on their way out.
The neighbors' dog will not stop barking.
I close all the windows in the house and put on a Beethoven symphony full blast but I can still hear him muffled under the music, barking, barking, barking, and now I can see him sitting in the orchestra, his head raised confidently as if Beethoven had included a part for barking dog.
When the record finally ends he is still barking, sitting there in the oboe section barking, his eyes fixed on the conductor who is entreating him with his baton while the other musicians listen in respectful silence to the famous barking dog solo, that endless coda that first established Beethoven as an innovative genius.

Written by Billy Collins |


 Sometimes the notes are ferocious,
skirmishes against the author
raging along the borders of every page
in tiny black script.
If I could just get my hands on you, Kierkegaard, or Conor Cruise O'Brien, they seem to say, I would bolt the door and beat some logic into your head.
Other comments are more offhand, dismissive - "Nonsense.
" "Please!" "HA!!" - that kind of thing.
I remember once looking up from my reading, my thumb as a bookmark, trying to imagine what the person must look like why wrote "Don't be a ninny" alongside a paragraph in The Life of Emily Dickinson.
Students are more modest needing to leave only their splayed footprints along the shore of the page.
One scrawls "Metaphor" next to a stanza of Eliot's.
Another notes the presence of "Irony" fifty times outside the paragraphs of A Modest Proposal.
Or they are fans who cheer from the empty bleachers, Hands cupped around their mouths.
"Absolutely," they shout to Duns Scotus and James Baldwin.
" "Bull's-eye.
" "My man!" Check marks, asterisks, and exclamation points rain down along the sidelines.
And if you have managed to graduate from college without ever having written "Man vs.
Nature" in a margin, perhaps now is the time to take one step forward.
We have all seized the white perimeter as our own and reached for a pen if only to show we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages; we pressed a thought into the wayside, planted an impression along the verge.
Even Irish monks in their cold scriptoria jotted along the borders of the Gospels brief asides about the pains of copying, a bird signing near their window, or the sunlight that illuminated their page- anonymous men catching a ride into the future on a vessel more lasting than themselves.
And you have not read Joshua Reynolds, they say, until you have read him enwreathed with Blake's furious scribbling.
Yet the one I think of most often, the one that dangles from me like a locket, was written in the copy of Catcher in the Rye I borrowed from the local library one slow, hot summer.
I was just beginning high school then, reading books on a davenport in my parents' living room, and I cannot tell you how vastly my loneliness was deepened, how poignant and amplified the world before me seemed, when I found on one page A few greasy looking smears and next to them, written in soft pencil- by a beautiful girl, I could tell, whom I would never meet- "Pardon the egg salad stains, but I'm in love.

Written by Billy Collins |


 If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary's cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking

a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,

releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting

into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.

Written by Billy Collins |

Child Development

 As sure as prehistoric fish grew legs
and sauntered off the beaches into forests
working up some irregular verbs for their
first conversation, so three-year-old children
enter the phase of name-calling.
Every day a new one arrives and is added to the repertoire.
You Dumb Goopyhead, You Big Sewerface, You Poop-on-the-Floor (a kind of Navaho ring to that one) they yell from knee level, their little mugs flushed with challenge.
Nothing Samuel Johnson would bother tossing out in a pub, but then the toddlers are not trying to devastate some fatuous Enlightenment hack.
They are just tormenting their fellow squirts or going after the attention of the giants way up there with their cocktails and bad breath talking baritone nonsense to other giants, waiting to call them names after thanking them for the lovely party and hearing the door close.
The mature save their hothead invective for things: an errant hammer, tire chains, or receding trains missed by seconds, though they know in their adult hearts, even as they threaten to banish Timmy to bed for his appalling behavior, that their bosses are Big Fatty Stupids, their wives are Dopey Dopeheads and that they themselves are Mr.

Written by Billy Collins |

Introduction To Poetry

 I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light 
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.
I say drop a mouse into a poem and watch him probe his way out, or walk inside the poem's room and feel the walls for a light switch.
I want them to waterski across the surface of a poem waving at the author's name on the shore.
But all they want to do is tie the poem to a chair with rope and torture a confession out of it.
They begin beating it with a hose to find out what it really means.

Written by Billy Collins |


 Now it is time to say what you have to say.
The room is quiet.
The whirring fan has been unplugged, and the girl who was tapping a pencil on her desktop has been removed.
So tell us what is on your mind.
We want to hear the sound of your foliage, the unraveling of your tool kit, your songs of loneliness, your songs of hurt.
The trains are motionless on the tracks, the ships are at restn the harbor.
The dogs are cocking their heads and the gods are peering down from their balloons.
The town is hushed, and everyone here has a copy.
So tell us about your parents— your father behind the steering wheel, your cruel mother at the sink.
Let's hear about all the clouds you saw, all the trees.
Read the poem you brought with you tonight.
The ocean has stopped sloshing around, and even Beethoven is sitting up in his deathbed, his cold hearing horn inserted in one ear.