Billy Collins' Aristotle
Posted in Literature, Poetry, and Books by Peter W. Schramm
I have been reading a bit from Billy Collins again this morning, including this, his "Aristotle
", which, no doubt isn't that hard to critique, and yet, you must admit is a good effort. This guy Collins is a poet of everything he sees and touches and hears and sees. Impressive. There is also this, "Reading an Anthology of Chinese Poems of the Sung Dynasty, I Pause To Admire the Length and Clarity of Their Titles
", and also, "Her
I just got one of his volumes of poems called, "The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems," and I just noticed the epigraph in it is from Henry James: "My idea of paradise is a perfect automobile going about thirty miles an hour on a smooth road to a twelfth century cathedral." That's probably the best thing James ever wrote.
1:28 PM / February 21, 2011
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That has to be one of Henry James' shortest, most comprehensible sentences, anyway. I use him to teach how modern writers ought not to write, but how they could write, with transitions and connections my students may not have considered before. He may have a point about paradise, but the smooth road would impell me to speed: too modern.
The audio on the right of the screen is helpful. With "Aristotle" it seemed easy to guess what he was getting at, but it is nice to know things with certainty. Collins explains a bit, then reads the poem and all falls into place.
"Her" is an example of his poetry I wrote about in the previous post on Collins. He takes you to the end and then catches you up with a surprise that makes you have to look back at what you read before. The observations of suburbia follow one on the other, pleasing because readily recognizable, and then there is the line at the end that must mean something significant in context that was missed, or else is non sequitur, or else is injustice -- anyway, it catches the eyes and turns them back. Like someone blustery from Wodehouse, I say, "What -- what?"