Friday, March 13, 2009

Litany by Billy Collins: Poem & Video

I do so enjoy reading poetry written by Billy Collins. I love his poems that make me chuckle—like Another Reason Why I Don’t Keep a Gun in the House, The Rival Poet, and Introduction to Poetry. For Poetry Friday, I selected Litany, another one of his more humorous works. Do watch the video of Collins reciting the poem and explaining how he did a little "stealing" from another poet's work when he wrote Litany--a love poem with lots of comparisons.


by Billy Collins

You are the bread and the knife,

The crystal goblet and the wine...

- Jacques Crickillon

You are the bread and the knife,

the crystal goblet and the wine.

You are the dew on the morning grass

and the burning wheel of the sun.

You are the white apron of the baker,

and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,

the plums on the counter,

or the house of cards.

And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.

There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,

maybe even the pigeon on the general's head,

but you are not even close

to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

You can read the rest of the poem here.

Here’s a video of Billy Collins reciting his poem Litany:


At Blue Rose Girls, I have an original poem, And Who Will Lead the GOP?, and a link to my new blog—Political Verses.

Tricia has the Poetry Friday Roundup at The Miss Rumphius Effect.


Anonymous said...

I like the way this goes from grandiose to goofy to quietly true--as if we have to wade through all the romantic hyperbole and cliche to find the original sentiment, and yes, it's right after all.

Btw, I laughed out loud at "Another Reason Why I Don't Keep a Gun in the House."

Elaine Magliaro said...


Collins can get to the truth of the matter with a good touch of humor.

Another poem by Collins that's a favorite is "The Trouble with Poetry."

Yat-Yee said...

Good ol' Billy, always with a twinkle in the eye. He lulls us with morning dew and then comes in with "no way you're pine scented air" and then with the boot and the boat. Love it!

Elaine Magliaro said...


You put it exactly right--Collins does it with a twinkle in his eye! I think that's why I enjoy reading his poetry.

Mary Lee said...

Good ol' Billy Collins. Nothing beats his dry delivery!

Elaine Magliaro said...

Mary Lee,

You're right. I like reading his poetry--but find it more enjoyable to hear him talk about and recite his own work.

laurasalas said...

I love Billy Collins and most of his work! I'm almost done with my first leisurely read of Ballistics.

But I've never cared for this poem. I don't know what it is! I heard him read it at an event, and people were practically rolling in the aisles! Most of the time, his humor connects with me and I do find myself at least smiling wryly, if not chuckling out loud. Sigh. I think I'm missing something good in this one, since it's obviously much loved.

Elaine Magliaro said...


I think I appreciated this poem more after watching this video.