Thursday, March 2, 2017

SOLC17 3/31 And Poetry Friday - Happy Birthday to Billy Collins


Yes, we're moving into the month of March, with a new SOLC challenge and it's already number three and time for the weekend! Go to the Two Writing Teachers website to find all who link there!

I also post in the PoetryFriday group. This time I've been asked by Heidi Mordhurst at My Juicy Little Universe to a celebration party for the poet Billy Collins. His 76th birthday is March 22nd, and some of us are adding to that special event by posting a favorite poem by Billy Collins. Thanks for hosting this celebration, Heidi!

        When I taught, among some classic poets, and some new poets popular with early adolescents, my go-to poet to share with my students was Billy Collins' poems and the poetry site he began when he served as Poet Laureate of the United States. If you don't know it, it's titled Poetry 180 and you can access it here. He began it to share poems he felt were accessible to high school students, but most are also good to share with middle school aged students as well. And new poems are added often. They speak of real life, connect to teens, show current problems in our world,  make kids (and teachers) laugh. Billy Collins' poems don't always speak about just teen life, but they do speak of life and the way one observes things. I always thought it showed my students that they can write poetry in their unique voices about their lives without worrying if it really is a poem. Reading and considering Billy Collins' words helps that worry. Yes, we did work with more exacting forms and learned poetic devices. But time and again when we shared favorite lines and/or poems, Billy's were shared often. Here is one of my favorites of his. You won't be surprised that's it's about books and libraries. 

It is titled "Books" from Sailing Around The Room
           and begins:

From the heart of this dark, evacuated campus
I can hear the library humming in the night,
a choir of authors murmuring inside their books
along the unlit, alphabetical shelves,
Giovanni Pontano next to Pope, Dumas next to his son,
each one stitched into his own private coat,
together forming a low, gigantic chord of language.

I picture a figure in the act of reading,
shoes on a desk, head tilted into the wind of a book,

       Find the rest here! And enjoy while you're singing "Happy Birthday!"

51 comments:

  1. I can't believe that I'd never heard of Billy Collins before! I don't recall ever reading his poetry in school - perhaps because I didn't go to school in the States? Still, what a shame! Thankfully I've been able to discover so many of his poems this week through Poetry Friday alone! :-)

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    1. I hope you enjoy this Friday with all of his poems shared, Jane. I learn about new poets nearly every week, so don't worry, just enjoy! Thanks!

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  2. As Jane said, this is the first time I've read Billy Collins - that I'm aware of - though I've heard the name. I am enjoying the experience today! A Collins Collection right here at my fingertips - thanks for sharing another, Linda!

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    1. You're welcome, Donna. He makes me think every time I read another.

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  3. Shivers at:
    "a choir of authors murmuring at night . ."
    by Billy Collins.

    Appreciations for sharing this poem & the links.

    Thinking of those lucky students you guided in poetry & all things . . .

    Am off to get ready for a Dr. Seuss day today.

    Happy Weekend!

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    1. What fun to have a Dr. Seuss day. I enjoyed telling people at the bookstore yesterday that it was his birthday! Thanks, Jan.

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  4. Thank you, LInda, for sharing the Poetry 180 site, which I find a really good jumping off place for students. It's a nice, varied collection, and I return to many I first found there! xo

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    1. You're welcome, Irene, so glad you know and like it, too. Billy Collins left us a lasting gift as Poet Laureate in that site.

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  5. My Poetry Friday friends are such a treasure trove. I hope some of our slicing friends will be enticed to join us. This is a new Billy Collin's poem for me. And here are my favorite words:
    "I see all of us reading ourselves away from ourselves,
    straining in circles of light to find more light
    until the line of words becomes a trail of crumbs
    that we follow across a page of fresh snow;"
    I knew that any poem titled "Books" by Billy Collins would be a winner. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. This celebration created by Heidi is going to be a joy all day, isn't it? This is a favorite, but then so are many others. Thanks, Ramona, I am not surprised you like it too!

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  6. Collins has a way of celebrating the sacred in the every day, he is such a pleasure to read and re-read. Thanks for sharing this gem, Linda.

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    1. You're welcome, Tara. The poems make us look deeply into what is already in our lives. That's what I really enjoy about his poems.

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  7. And his poems are accessible and great conversation starters.

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    1. Yes! It would be lovely to talk about each one as to what touches us uniquely. Thanks, Bob.

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  8. From slice to slice I learn new information and read more poems from Billy Collins. Each slicer adds their perspective and their emotions. Fantastic celebration of this talented poet.

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    1. I'm glad you're enjoying each one, Terje. I am, too!

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  9. I've never read this poem before, but I LOVE it! Thank you for sharing it today, Linda.

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    1. You're welcome, Jennifer. Glad you liked it!

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  10. Oh my, what a gorgeous poem. Now I want to buy that book! I love the Poetry 180 site, and the fact that Billy's poems can inspire young writers to feel free to write in their own voices about their own lives. I love the way he makes POETRY get off its high horse.

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    1. I understand about the purchasing, Jama. You've made me purchase a few these past years, too! I haven't read them all, but each one is worth a look to me. Thanks! Glad you know about the Poetry 180 site!

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  11. I love this one! I use Billy Collins quite a bit with my students, too - Nancie Atwell's book In the Middle introduced me to him in the first place, in fact!

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    1. Fun to know that you use Billy Collins' poems too, Ruth. Perhaps In The Middle pointed it to me, too. I don't remember, but certainly In The Middle used to be so important to me. Thanks!

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  12. Linda, thanks for sharing "Books!!!!" It's marvelous, from beginning with the authors talking amongst each other to the end, "small birds flutter down to consume the crumbs,
    we have to listen hard to hear the voices
    of the boy and his sister receding into the woods.
    What a wonderful journey with words!

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    1. I like imagining all the pieces, Michelle. I'm happy you like it, too.

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  13. I love that poem. It is my favorite of the Billy Collins poems I have read from slicers celebrating Poetry Friday today.

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    1. Glad you're enjoying this special sharing, Diane. It is wonderful. Thanks!

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  14. Thank you for yet another Billy Collins poem to savor as I pour over it. My thoughts go immediately to this stanza:
    I see all of us reading ourselves away from ourselves,
    straining in circles of light to find more light
    until the line of words becomes a trail of crumbs
    that we follow across a page of fresh snow;

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    1. Glad you like it, Carol. I find his images astounding, read them again and again with much in my mind's eye, wondering what was in his mind as he wrote.

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    2. I like your thinking, Linda, and always look forward to our weekly communication.

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  15. I watched a TED talk of Collins recently. His dry wit had the audience in hysterics. So real and contemporary. I can just imagine how your 8th graders would have connected. And what lessons his poetry teaches on "life and the way one observes things."

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    1. I must find that Ted talk. I guess I never thought he would have one, although there are many videos of him. Yes, my students liked his poems a lot.

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  16. The stanza that Carol shares is the one that grabbed me, too. Beautiful! Thanks, Linda :-)

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  17. One of the best things about this week has been discovering several new-to-me Billy Collins poems. (I thought for sure we would get many repeats, but not so much.) Yours is one of the new ones for me, so thank you for choosing it, Linda! I'm also grateful to know how you used Billy Collins in the classroom. Makes a lot of sense. :)

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    1. Thanks, Michelle. I too thought there would be more repeats, am glad this is new to you. Of course I loved it because of the wonder of the 'books'.

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  18. Oh, I do love Sailing Around the Room. It is a favorite. What's been fun for me this weekend is to "pin" all the BC poems I can to my pinterest board for Poetry. I am building a collection of favorites. So nice!
    You are doing great in the SOLC. I love seeing your words. I hope you feel the growth as a writer. Happy March!

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    1. Thanks, Linda, glad you know this anthology, a favorite of mine as well. I'm enjoying SOLC like always. It's my 7th year and I've written about a lot of things through these years. Life moves on!

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    2. Great post, Linda! This is another wonderful Collins poem that's new to me. It's quite surprising how so far on this journey through PF, I've found few repeated poems. I guess that speaks to the depth of his work and its wide appeal.

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    3. Thanks, Violet. I have enjoyed everyone's BC poems, and also their own responses, like yours. What a treat this Poetry Friday has been.

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  19. Love this memoir of a reader! I was thrilled to see I had already bookmarked that poem and it's buried somewhere in my bookmarks to find again and again.

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    1. It really calls to me, too, Mary Lee. Glad you "recovered" it!

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  20. "I see all of us reading ourselves away from ourselves,
    straining in circles of light to find more light"
    - I always find light over here, Linda! Thanks for a great post.

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    1. Thanks Robyn, it is a de "light" ful poem, I agree.

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  21. "Books" is new to me, too (or forgotten, since I have Sailing Around the Room). This line, "straining in circles of light to find more light" says so much about the power of reading. Thank you for sharing this, Linda!

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    1. You're welcome, Catherine. I think we all have so many wonderful poetry books, it's hard to remember the wonderful poems. I'm glad you liked that part.

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  22. Linda, you are not going to believe this--I had forgotten that Poetry 180 was Billy's Poet Laureate project! That alone would have been a sufficient gift to the world, don't you think? This poem feels to me more considered, more "worked" than many of the others I've read this weekend. Makes me feel the weight of his experience, his regard for books, reading, stories. Thanks for joining in!

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    1. I'm happy that I included that part about Poetry 180, Heidi. It is a wonderful place to find poems from all kinds of poets. And yes, the poem is thoughtful to me. Thank you for hosting this celebration, so much fun!

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  23. Here's one I hadn't read before. Interesting that he sees readers as Hansel and Gretel, disappearing into the woods, feeding the birds. "I see all of us reading ourselves away from ourselves" is insightful. I feel like books become our muscle fiber, letting us lift our troubles. But that's me.

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    1. And sometimes we do read to "get away", too, Brenda. There are lots of kinds of readers. Thanks!

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  24. I, too, had not read this Billy poem before, so thank you for sharing it, Linda! I love the line: "a choir of authors murmuring inside their books" - that is going to stick with me every time I go to the library. =)

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  25. I really have to actively see out more of Billy Collins' poetry! This year!!! :)

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Having a conversation is a good thing!