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The Billy Collins Poem

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(Adapted from "How to write a Billy Collins poem" Poetry Exercise at Ariadne's Web)

Let’s Write A Billy Collins Poem – but first check out Billy Collins at Poets.org. 

And especially see this article "Billy Collins: Writing on Writing about Writing" on Something New Daily. 


So what are the features of a Billie Collins poem? Here’s a list – and see if you can include them all because you can delete the ones that don’t work well when you revise.

1.  Line Breaks a la Collins – are normal with pauses for breath. A number of poems are written in couplets, triplets, or quatrains. They do not have end-rhymes.  

2.  Add in a small animal – a bird, a hamster, a goldfish.  The animal will stand for you or you will stand for the animal.  

3.  Collins appears in his poems as an “I” – and the poems is generally about an everyday experience.

4.  Collins often addresses a “you.”

5.  Include something rather squeamish – some small dead thing – or a bird that is still living the cat has caught.

6.  Add a metaphor that might extend for a stanza.  

7.  Refer to a famous person—or a town – or a state – or a country.

8. Use commonplace language.

Now – ready – set – go.  Again:

1.  Begin with a line that specifies a time.  These examples are from his book, nine Horses. 

     “Ever since I woke up today” 
     “This morning as I walked along the lakeshore”
     “In a rush this weekday morning.”

2.  Line 2:  Next line will contain a verb – and action what you did – or what something else did.

    “A song has been playing uncontrollably.”
     “I fell in love with a wren.”
     “I tap the horn as I speed past the cemetery.”

3.  Line 3.  Add a line of description that introduces a metaphor or simile that says something about what occurred. 

Lines 4-6.   Now introduce that small animal and add something squeamish. 

Lines 7-9.  Address / introduce the “you.” 

Now – not everything has to be in every poem – but let’s just say this is a menu – and you order a lot.

From “Aimless Love”

This morning as I walked along the lakeshore,
I fell in love with a wren
and later in the day with a mouse
the cat had dropped under the dining room table.

From “Roadside Flowers”

Roadside flowers,
when I get back to my room
I will make it all up to you.
I will lie on my stomach and write
in a notebook how lighthearted you were,
pink and white among the weeds, . . . 

And another option:  replace the nouns in the Collins poem and add your own.

Google: “Litany”

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. . . .