Blog Your Blessings: Poetry

"You know how you just have a memory of looking up and seeing a face looking over your crib and then remember nothing until tenth grade?--I have one of these early memories where I'm in the back of my parents' car...."

So said the American poet Billy Collins--our poet laureate from 2001to 2003--in response to a question about the influence of his childhood on his poetry in a 2006 interview with Guerinca Magazine.

This kind of response is typical of Billy Collins and characteristic of his poetry. He has the gift of expressing the magic and mysterious aspects of life in the most ordinary of terms so that the loftiest of literary arts takes on the voice of you and me.

In his poem "Lanyard," for example, he reflects on creating a lanyard at summer camp and giving it to his mother, the woman who gave him life and made so many sacrifices for his benefit. Here are the final two stanzas:

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,

is a smaller gift—not the archaic truth
that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

His comment and this poem are this week's blessing. They set my mind off in the direction of my own mother. I thought of those "crib" memories--random, isolated recollections that Collins referred to in the interview--that are in some ways the sum of my being my mother's daughter.

I thought, for example, of the way my mother used to color. She would outline an area with a thick line and then color with light even strokes until it was filled. This amazed my young mind. Her colored pages were neat and even alongside my cross-hatched, outside-the-lines efforts. I thought of the paper angels she taped to the mirror in the living room at Christmas time. My mother never taped anything anywhere ever, so the very use of Scotch tape in the living room at Christmas marked the occasion as very important, indeed. And she'd pin little glass Christmas balls to the sheers that softened the light coming through the picture window. And the thick holly garland--where did she hang that thing all the time? Daily trips to the beach--a small pond in our small town--and the daily dilemma of how to rinse the feet and flip flops without getting sandied up again on the walk to the car. Quarters for the ice cream man and waiting on the front step. We wore our pajamas and went straight to bed. Off to Sunday school on Sunday mornings...

As poet laureate, Billy Collins was the official poetic voice of this country for a few years. As an artist, he clears the way for his readers to find the way to the poems inside ourselves and he tells us our story.


Comments

  1. Wow... as usual, you managed to touch a part of my heart with this... Thank you for sharing it!

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  2. I couldn't agree more with Matthew. Bravo Sandy! Your writing style is definitely uplifting, and a blessing to those who read it :)

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  3. I have to repeat doubledeckerbusguy's sentiment.

    WOW!

    That was a great post, that I am sure most people, me included, can relate with.

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  4. What a wonderful read ....

    Poetry escapes me - the words will not do as I wish them too.

    What a great blessing - thank you for sharing.

    Happy BYB SUnday and have a great week.

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  5. Beautiful as always! Happy BYB Sunday!

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  6. What a wonderful post! Thank you for sharing.

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  7. How wonderfully uplifting! poetry is indeed such a powerful tool.

    D

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  8. I love Billy Collins... A poet for a blessing. That's a great idea.

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  9. Just beautiful and brought back my own memories of Mom. Thanks for visiting my blog.

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  10. billy collins is an amazing poet... and he just looks like a nice guy too; someone who would be fun to know.

    enjoyed your fear posts too. so hard not to feel afraid and let the peace enter

    ascenderrisesabove.com/wordpress

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