What if Penn & Teller were poets instead of magicians? They approach their craft seriously but present it with humor. They present the wonder of the world by telling you they are going to pull a rabbit out of a hatand yet, we're still surprised when they do. The poems in Whale Day display this same kind of magicsimple language arranged creatively. Billy Collins' sleight of hand isn't there to trick us into reading poetry, instead, it's to remind us of the beauty of living.
“The poems are marked by his characteristic humor and arise out of small, banal moments, unearthing the extraordinary or uncanny in the everyday.”—The Wall Street Journal
Whale Day brings together more than fifty poems and showcases the deft mixing of the playful and the serious that has made Billy Collins one of our country’s most celebrated and widely read poets. Here are poems that leap with whimsy and imagination, yet stay grounded in the familiar, common things of everyday experience. Collins takes us for a walk with an impossibly ancient dog, discovers the original way to eat a banana, meets an Irish spider, and even invites us to his own funeral. Sensitive to the wonders of being alive as well as the thrill of mortality, Whale Day builds on and amplifies Collins’s reputation as one of America’s most interesting and durable poets.
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|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.50(d)|
About the Author
Hometown:Somers, New York
Date of Birth:March 22, 1941
Place of Birth:New York, New York
Education:B.A., Holy Cross College, 1963; Ph.D. in Romantic poetry, University of California at Riverside, 1971
Read an Excerpt
Walking My Seventy-Five-Year-Old Dog
She’s painfully slow,
so I often have to stop and wait
while she examines some roadside weeds
as if she were reading the biography of a famous dog.
And she’s not a pretty sight anymore,
dragging one of her hind legs,
her coat too matted to brush or comb,
and a snout white as a marshmallow.
We usually walk down a disused road
that runs along the edge of a lake,
whose surface trembles in a high wind
and is slow to ice over as the months grow cold.
We don’t walk very far before
she sits down on her worn haunches
and looks up at me with her rheumy eyes.
Then it’s time to carry her back to the car.
Just thinking about the honesty in her eyes,
I realize I should tell you
she’s not really seventy-five. She’s fourteen.
I guess I was trying to appeal to your sense
of the bizarre, the curiosities of the sideshow.
I mean who really cares about another person’s dog?
Everything else I’ve said is true,
except the part about her being fourteen.
I mean she’s old, but not that old,
and it’s not polite to divulge the true age of a lady.
I was trying to make my way
across a busy street in San Francisco,
while carrying the new anthology of poetry
I’d been flipping through earlier that morning—
with my pot of tea and two pieces of cinnamon toast—
in which I was wedged between James Tate and Bob Dylan
because the poets were arranged old to young, according to age.
I had to avoid a couple of cars,
cross over two sets of trolley tracks,
and dodge a guy with a ski cap on a bicycle
in order to get across the street and enter
one of the city’s many hospitable parks
with their hedges, benches, and shade trees
and often girls on a blanket, a juggler, an old man doing tai-chi.
And that’s where I lay down on the soft grass,
closed my eyes, and after a little while
began to picture the three of us lined up in a row
according to the editor’s wishes,
sliding out of our mothers in order, one after the other,
then ending up pressed together on a shelf
in a corner bookstore, yodeling away in the dark.
Paris in May
A teddy bear in a store window,
waiting to cross a boulevard,
a woman in a café, her red nails
on a man’s nape while she smokes—
what are we to make of all this?
In the church of Saint-Sulpice,
the Virgin holds her baby to her chest
as she stands on the round earth,
appearing to be unaware
of the serpent she is crushing with one foot.
Outside, four stone lions guard a fountain.
Is this a puzzle I am meant to solve
before the evening bells ring again—
here a man wearing a newspaper hat,
there a child alone on a flowery balcony?
An outdoor table on Rue Cassette
seemed a good enough place to sort things out.
And sure enough,
after two milky-green glasses of Pernod,
the crowd flowed around me like a breeze,
and I found a link between my notebook
and the soft Parisian sky,
both being almost the same pale shade of blue.
Table of Contents
The Function of Poetry xvii
Walking My Seventy-Five-Year-Old Dog 3
Contemporary Americans 5
Paris in May 6
And It's Raining Outside, Which Always Adds 8
Life Expectancy 10
Sleeping on My Side 12
The Floors of Bonnard 13
Down on the Farm 14
Imperial Garden 16
Evening Wind 22
Walking Under the Trees 25
Whale Day 26
The Wild Barnacle 31
Banana School 36
Irish Spider 41
Listening to Hank Mobley Around 11 O'Clock 42
After a Long Fun Boozy Dinner, the Four of Us, at Captain Pig's, Our Favorite Restaurant in Town The Card Players 43
A Terrible Beauty 47
Duck Blind 49
She's Gone 50
Safe Travels 57
The Emperor of Ice Cubes 61
I Am Not Italian 63
The Symphony Orchestra of San Miguel de Allende 64
Lakeside Cottage: Ontario 70
The Convergence of My Parents 72
Dreaming of the Middle Ages 74
The Yellow Wood 77
My Funeral 78
The Pregnant Man 80
Architecture at 3.-30 AM. 81
The Garland 83
Me First 87
A Sight 88
Air Sax 89
English Roses 90
On the Deaths of Friends 91
Talking to Myself 94
Ireland Floating on a Map of the World 96
The Flash Card 97
Early People 101
My Father's Office, John Street, New York City, 1953 103
April 21st 106
Hotel Rex 110
Going for a Walk as the Drugs Kick In 111