Model Poem: Litany by Billy Collins

Osel
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Joined: June 20th, 2007, 3:33 am

May 14th, 2015, 1:28 pm #1

Toni,
What is the model, the Billy Collins poem, you used to write The Tool For The Task?
http://www.lochravenreview.net/2007summer/clark.html

I love this poem, it has such wonderful turns in it. The grass to cut ~
the bread wings ~ the boathouse, the bridge. and on and on
Last edited by Osel on May 15th, 2015, 11:17 am, edited 1 time in total.
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toniclark
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Joined: May 5th, 2006, 6:47 pm

May 14th, 2015, 4:06 pm #2

Thanks for asking. And I'm glad you like my poem! Yes, that’s a great way to use a model. And here's the story. I was taking a class in which the assignment was to take a poem that we admired and use the last word of each line in a poem of our own — same structure, same number of lines, etc.). The instructor also said we could use a poem that we did not like and that this sometimes led to even better poems. 

I had always disliked a poem of Billy Collins that has become immensely popular and apparently beloved. Everyone seems to think it's hilariously funny. It just irritates me. As is so often the case with Collins, he uses his poem to make fun of another poet, and of poetry generally. I actually rather like the Crickillon lines that Collins quotes and riffs on. Crickillon, a Belgian poet, is still alive and writing. I wonder what he thought of Collins. Anyway, doesn’t matter. I’m probably the only person in the world who doesn’t like that poem — but I enjoyed using the technique to produce “The Tool for the Task.”



Litany

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.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman’s tea cup.
But don’t worry, I’m not the bread and the knife.

You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and–somehow–the wine.


Billy Collins, from Nine Horses: Poems
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Osel
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Joined: June 20th, 2007, 3:33 am

May 14th, 2015, 6:37 pm #3

oh, yes! now i remember it, and how much it irks me! it's so smugly working at laughs, in its we are All of usl 'the poem' way. This is a thing his poetry does do, quite a lot--and most times I feel more generous in my assessment of what he has done for people and poetry, making it more, you know, approachable.

But this is like a "we are the world" performance, without Michael Jackson. Maybe with a hologram, or an impersonator.

"it might interest you to know", "however you are not"... Grr, and all that playing-to-the-ego, "But don't worry, ... You are still..That is where I just about got out that knife, that I still am, and felt an actual I-have-been-good-and-manipulated dislike.
I blocked it! I recall now, I was so impressed with the way your poem did not contain any of the smarmy talking down, that masquerades as huggy. I couldn't see it coming form the Collins poem.  
Last edited by Osel on May 14th, 2015, 6:42 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Osel
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May 14th, 2015, 6:47 pm #4

And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.


argh! and ach-yoo! whole forests turn away speechless, and car fresheners as humourous 'love' gifts take a steep climb! Did he write this when he was Poet Laureate, putting poems in the pockets of schoolchildren?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
back to the poem as model. The last word of every line, same structure. . .
I was noting today, how lovely, fresh I find what you did with grass and sun. that stood out to me, in the same way I enjoy and find startling new views or slants, that can come from erasure...

Must try this modeling.
Last edited by Osel on May 14th, 2015, 6:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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toniclark
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Joined: May 5th, 2006, 6:47 pm

May 14th, 2015, 8:46 pm #5

Ah, then there are two of us in the world. We may be the only ones, but I am so glad to know that I'm not alone! I treasure your comments! And agree completely.
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Osel
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May 14th, 2015, 11:24 pm #6

at least two! I'm not sure why the link to loch raven review is not working right now..I was going to study them together, for fun. i'll try again tomorrow. it makes a lot of sense to me, to use a poem you strongly do not like. wonderful recreative sense, really. ~~~~~~~~~~~~
it's working again.
Last edited by Osel on May 14th, 2015, 11:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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emurer
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Joined: May 1st, 2010, 2:37 pm

May 15th, 2015, 8:52 am #7

I can understand your reactions, T & A, but I don't share them.  I haven't read enough Collins to have made up my mind about him, but I wouldn't call this ego-driven.  His muse is comic, something about those lines sent his tongue into his cheek and he was off.
What's frustrating is that I can't seem to find the Crickillon original - or a translation thereof - anywhere. 
Alison suggested moving this discussion to another thread and I think that would be a good idea.   I haven't responded to to this "model poems" thread, but I did want to ask some procedural questions. 
1) if we want to work off a model, should it be its own thread, and if so, where?
2) I was wondering if I should post some of my eye-rhyme experiments from this year's NaPo as models and if so how and where?   I could provide some oulipian models too, my own and others' - am confused about that, too, and about suggesting them as forms - the structure of the Sand Sculptures section still bewilders me.
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toniclark
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Joined: May 5th, 2006, 6:47 pm

May 15th, 2015, 10:37 am #8

You are right, Esther. But it still bugs me.

I've never found the original Crickillon either. It must be in a book somewhere. In French. . . . ?

I'll have to figure out how to move the relevant parts of this thread elsewhere. I think it can be split. I'll copy it somewhere first before I mess around.

Do you want a subforum for working-from-model poems? Woudl that do it? I think we need a place to post model poems and then a different place to post the poems we write that use models as jumping off points. Yes?
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toniclark
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May 15th, 2015, 11:05 am #9

Alison et al., 
I didn't have any problem with the Loch Raven link, but I've made you a pdf file that contains the two poems side by side. See if this works:  Litany and Tool
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Osel
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Joined: June 20th, 2007, 3:33 am

May 15th, 2015, 3:18 pm #10

Toni, the Loch Raven was working again. I edited, up above. But thanks for the pdf!  I do appreciate seeing them side by side. And good luck with all the branching, in Sand Sculptures! I'm not even sure where this thread fits. Esther, 
et al., if anyone does come across the Crickillon, could they put it in this thread? That poem I'd very much like to see. 

There was more I could say (as Toni might guess!) about the model poem, besides the fact that he really does pull it off. I concede that. It's just that I do not enjoy the extended pulling. Nor how the poem's "I" tastes like butterscotch pudding, when I prefer the savoury. 

And now I wonder, of all the people who score the poem closer to five stars than one, what percentage prefer donuts over pesto? hmm. . . What kind of donuts? ) I realize that where lots of people find humour, 
or dab the eyes and find humour, even hilarity, I do not. It stands to reason, the reverse might be equally so. 

Greta used the term "bogus hilarity" in a poem once, brilliantly I thought.  I'm borrowing it to stand in here, for one of my Litany stars. I actually tried to begin a poem last night, with the poem as a model (following the principles of careful composting, and in consideration of Collins poems I genuinely do like) and was utterly stumped, with the first line. Just blocked. And the second. ...Which brings me back to how much I like Toni's poem, how it goes somewhere else completely. new flowers.
Last edited by Osel on May 15th, 2015, 3:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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