The Country, by Billy Collins [Poetry Friday]

Happy Poetry Friday! (Wondering what Poetry Friday is? Click here.)

I was lucky enough to attend a Billy Collins event a couple of weeks ago for my birthday. I love his work, and he’s an excellent reader–wry, understated, and funny. My husband compared his delivery to Bob Newhart’s. He (Collins, not my husband nor Bob Newhart) read some of my favorites (“The Lanyard,” “The Revenant,” all his greatest hits that I love), but he didn’t read this one that I have a real soft spot for. It always makes me laugh.

The Country
I wondered about you
when you told me never to leave
a box of wooden, strike-anywhere matches
lying around the house because the mice

might get into them and start a fire.
But your face was absolutely straight
when you twisted the lid down on the round tin
where the matches, you said, are always stowed.

Who could sleep that night?
Who could whisk away the thought
of the one unlikely mouse
padding along a cold water pipe

behind the floral wallpaper
gripping a single wooden match
between the needles of his teeth?
Who could not see him rounding a corner,
Read the ending here.
–Billy Collins, from Nine Horses: Poems

The event also included a copy of his new collection, The Rain in Portugal. I look forward to hunkering down with it soon.

And for more poetry fun, don’t miss the Poetry Friday Roundup. Thoughtful teacher Linda Baie at Teacher Dance will be rounding us up today. Enjoy!

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18 Responses

  1. Rye, indeed, and shows how delightedly Billy Collins takes us where we rarely tread. It’s almost a good Halloween poem, Laura, simply frightful! No sweet mouse story here! Thanks, it’s a new one to me!

      1. I just saw your reply, and then realized that I meant “wry”, oops! Yes, I loved this poem!

    1. Agreed! Sometimes poetry I’m “meh” about becomes magical when I hear the poet read it.

  2. Collins is my all time favorite. So glad you had the opportunity to see him in person, what a treat. I’m going to be on the lookout for his new title. =)

  3. What fun to be part of a Billy Collins reading. (I’ve seen him read on YouTubes and enjoyed them very much.) Enjoyed that mouse poem. Sometimes his humor reminds me a of the humor on Seinfeld.

    1. This was third time I’ve seen him–he converts non-poetry lovers every time! I never cared for Seinfeld, but, yes, that droll humor…I can see that. And the pauses.

  4. I envy your chance to attend a Billy Collins event! I would love to do that. Thank you for the poem and the enthusiasm. Have a great week full of poetic thoughts and moments to write them.

    1. Thanks, Linda! I did have two great days of thinking and writing poetic thoughts with third graders:>)

  5. How did I miss the fact that he has a new book out? The librarian in me is feeling a bit shame-faced!

  6. What a great poem–another delight from the amazing Billy Collins. I would LOVE to attend a Billy Collins event! What a wonderful opportunity!

    1. I feel very lucky–we get lots of readings and speakers here in Minneapolis, but I don’t actually go that many. But Billy Collins? This was my 3rd time! I recommend it if you ever do have him speaking nearby!

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