There are good reasons why Billy Collins is probably the most-loved U.S. Poet Laureate in recent history. For one, his poetry speaks, talks, chats us up. It is like The Simpsons. You can zone out, read and enjoy. Or you can dig a little and discover that each word is rooted in mindful soul.
Here is a great example of his relaxed work:
Hamlet noticed them in the shapes of clouds,
but I saw them in the furniture of childhood,
creatures trapped under surfaces of wood,
one submerged in a polished sideboard,
one frowning from a chair-back,
another howling from my mother’s silent bureau,
locked in the grain of maple, frozen in oak.
I would see these presences, too,
in a swirling pattern of wallpaper
or in the various greens of a porcelain lamp,
each looking so melancholy, so damned,
some peering out at me as if they knew
all the secrets of a secretive boy.
Many times I would be daydreaming
on the carpet and one would appear next to me,
the oversize nose, the hollow look.
So you will understand my reaction
this morning at the beach
when you opened your hand to show me
a stone you had picked up from the shoreline.
“Do you see the face?” you asked
as the cold surf circled our bare ankles.
“There’s the eye and the line of the mouth,
like it’s grimacing, like it’s in pain.”
“Well, maybe that’s because it has a fissure
running down the length of its forehead
not to mention a kind of twisted beak,” I said,
taking the thing from you and flinging it out
over the sparkle of blue waves
so it could live out its freakish existence
on the dark bottom of the sea
and stop bothering innocent beachgoers like us,
stop ruining everyone’s summer.