Posts Tagged ‘Billy Collins’

Winter installment: My Anthology of Favorite Poems

Sunday, February 4th, 2018

Having fallen slightly behind in steering readers during each season to four poems that I have added to my personal favorites anthology, I’m changing my approach a bit. I am following Robert Pinsky’s suggestion that building such an anthology must come from writing out each poem (not just reading, memorizing, or cataloging it) line by line, word by word, placing each letter, word, and punctuation mark on one’s copy paper with one’s own hand-held writing instrument (3).

I’ve decided that instead of just referencing these poems for readers of this blog to track down, I am going to write a favorite poem out for you to consider. (I’ve done this for myself with each poem I’ve previously selected, but I have only shared my copying once before.)

My poem for the winter of 2018 is “Praise Song” by Lucille Clifton (1).

I discovered Clifton’s poetry as a young professor teaching at a community college. I rediscovered this particular poem of hers last week while perusing Billy Collins’ 2003 anthology Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry. (2)

Praise Song
By Lucille Clifton

to my aunt blanche
who rolled from grass to driveway
into the street one sunday morning.
I was ten.              I had never seen
a human woman hurl her basketball
body into the traffic of the world.
Praise to the drivers who stopped in time.
Praise to the faith with which she rose
after some moments then slowly walked
sighing back to her family.
Praise to the arms which understood
little or nothing of what it meant
but welcoming her in without judgment,
accepting it all like children might,
like God.


(1) Clifton, Lucille. Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poetry (1988-2000), Rochester: BOA Editions. 2000.

(2) Collins, Billy. Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry. New York: Random House. 2003.

–Collins compiled this anthology as a project during his years as America’s Congressional Poet Laureate. It is aimed primarily at high school students encouraging them to read a poem every one of the 180 days they are required to be in school.
The Library of Congress maintains an annually updated version of Collins’ anthology at Sadly, the poem of Clifton, who died in 2010, has been replaced in the latest online iteration.

(3) Pinsky, Robert. Singing School: Learning to Read (and Write) Poetry by Studying With the Masters. New York: W. W. Norton. 2003.

Serendipitous laughter: Two experiences

Friday, June 25th, 2010

By Allan Roy Andrews

Experience No. 1:

Radio-television personality and humorist Art Linkletter died last week at 97. Until about two years ago, when he suffered a mild stroke, Linkletter was still active on the philanthropic circuit.
A few years before that, I heard Linkletter entertain at a small school fundraiser. Linkletter, whose adoptive father was a Canadian preacher, told someone at that gathering that he “liked to help out small Christian schools.”
In his comments that night, Linkletter told a joke that I have commandeered as a staple of fun found in growing older. Here’s the joke:
“You know you’re getting old when you bend over to pick something off the floor and you say to yourself, ‘What else can I do while I’m down here?’”
I have learned experientially what Linkletter spoke of, so I’ve used the joke a number of times, and it never fails to elicit hearty laughs.
Two of Linkletter’s books also keep me smiling: Kids Say the Darndest Things, and Old Age is Not For Sissies.

Experience No. 2:

For the group’s edification, I recently read to my Bible discussion gathering a favorite poem by Billy Collins called “Flock.”
Here’s the brief poem:

It has been calculated that each copy of the
Gutenberg Bible . . . required the skins of 300 sheep.
–from an article on printing.

I can see them squeezed into the holding pen
behind the stone building
where the printing press is housed,

all of them squirming around
to find a little room
and looking so much alike

it would be nearly impossible
to count them,
and there is no telling

which one will carry the news
that the Lord is a shepherd,
one of the few things they already know.

–from The Trouble with Poetry, by Billy Collins. (Random House, 2005.)

After a moment of silent reflection, one member of our group put me—and several others—in stitches when he said, “I’m having a Gary Larson moment,” referring to the prize-winning cartoonist of The Other Side who was noted for his surprising and often warped sense of humor.
“I can see a room full of monks, having just sheared a flock of sheep, taking up their calligraphy pens and writing verses of sacred scripture on the flanks of the shorn animals,” my friend continued. “They probably had a difficult time keeping the pages in order!”
It was a wonderful moment, and if Billy Collins ever reads about our experience, I have a feeling he’ll be smiling broadly too. And if Larson ever reads this report of my friend’s experience, he’ll probably be saying, “I wish I’d thought of that!”