Writing About Poetry, Victoria’s Secret Models, and Dogs

0375503803.01._SX450_SY635_SCLZZZZZZZ_Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins ★★★★
Source: Municipal Library
Edition: Random House (2001), Hardcover, 192 pages
Awards & Distinctions: ALA Notable Books for Adults
Original publication date: 2001

I’m not a natural to poetry; I really have to make a special effort to make time for it and pay attention to it and work at appreciating it, which is odd, because I have my quiet and unexpressed poetic way of looking at the world, but too often the language of individual poets is obscure to me, the imagery too specific or too filled with references I don’t understand, rhythms I can’t pick up on, moods I’m not in tune with. Billy Collins is new to me, and I decided to give this poetry collection a try after seeing a few of his best poems on one of my LT buddy’s threads. This collection gathers some “new” selections (as of 2001), as well as older ones from collections from The Apple That Astonished Paris (1988), Questions About Angels (1991) The Art of Drowning (1995), and Picnic, Lightning (1998), the latter of which includes one of my absolute favourites poems by Collins, which my buddy Joe transcribed in full on one of his threads, called Victoria’s Secret. It’s rather long, so here are just the first three of nine verses:

Victoria’s Secret

The one in the upper left-hand corner
is giving me a look
that says I know you are here
and I have nothing better to do
for the remainder of human time
than return your persistent but engaging stare.
She is wearing a deeply scalloped
flame-stitch halter top
with padded push-up styling
and easy side-zip tap pants.

The one on the facing page, however,
who looks at me over her bare shoulder,
cannot hide the shadow of annoyance in her brow.
You have interrupted me,
she seems to be saying,
with your coughing and your loud music.
Now please leave me alone;
Let me finish whatever it was I was doing
in my organza-trimmed
whisperweight camisole with
keyhole closure and a point d’esprit mesh back.

I wet my thumb and flip the page.
Here, the one who happens to be reclining
in a satin and lace merry widow
with an inset lace-up front,
decorated underwire cups and bodice with lace ruffles along the bottom
and hook-and-eye closure in the back,
is wearing a slightly contorted expression,
her head thrust back, mouth partially open,
a confusing mixture or pain and surprise
as if she had stepped on a tack
just as I was breaking down
her bedroom door with my shoulder.

What appealed tremendously to me about this particular poem I guess is I heard an inner voice, or was it the voice of my own mother maybe, who has a mean sense of humour and has always liked to put words in the mouths of the models on the glossy magazines we always had laying around the house, so there was something familiar about it, which took nothing away from the humour of it, and just made it all that more engaging in fact. Collins often writes poems about the process of writing poetry which are surprisingly appealing. There’s often a sense of playfulness in his work, though in his “new” work, there is more talk of death, since it seems he lost his mother around 2001 and was quite understandably more focused on themes of death and dying, but not always. My favourite poem from that particular collection is about a dog and like so much of his work, just seems so spot on:

Dharma

The way the dog trots out the front door
every morning
without a hat or an umbrella,
without any money
or the keys to her doghouse
never fails to fill the saucer of my heart
with milky admiration.

Who provides a finer example
of a life without encumbrance—
Thoreau in his curtainless hut
with a single plate, a single spoon?
Gandhi with his staff and his holy diapers?

Off she goes into the material world
with nothing but her brown coat
and her modest blue collar,
following only her wet nose,
the twin portals of her steady breathing,
followed only by the plume of her tail.

If only she did not shove the cat aside
every morning
and eat all his food
what a model of self-containment she would be,
what a paragon of earthly detachment.
If only she were not so eager
for a rub behind the ears,
so acrobatic in her welcomes,
if only I were not her god.

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My Little Lamb

Coco Before-After

My little lamb, aka Coco went to the groomer’s today and got all shorn for spring. Couldn’t resist doing a before & after shot. I think he looks pretty adorable before and after. Poor thing is winking because his eye is bothering him, probably some form of hay fever.

Happy New Zzzzz…

IMG_5506 (2)Coco and I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy National Sleep Day and also a Happy, Peaceful and Satisfying New Year!

A Rainy Day: An Instagram Short Story

Well, my biggest project this month was intended to be my latest effort at writing a novel draft for NaNoWriMo, but then Instagram happened, and for the past couple of weeks since I’ve joined the fee iPhone and Android application which allows you take photos, edit them and post them to share with millions of other users around the world, I’ve been doing nothing but taking photos, editing them, and posting them. So while my writing has been suffering, my instinct to tell stories still remains. Today I put together a little story in photos. It was rainy and grey, but that didn’t stop me from snapping away.

It’s nice to stay under the blankets on a rainy day…

This is the kind of day that greeted us when Coco and I stepped outside.

Everyone and everything was grey and rain-spattered.

Here and there, droplets of colour, but you really had to look for them.

Suddenly, a burst of colour. I grew very excited.

A friendly face came into the next frame. It said: “you’ve taken enough photos mummy, I’m cold, how about that warm blanket now?”

Doing what he does best:

Untitled

This is my Coco, doing what he does best, i.e. looking ridiculously cute. I took him to the groomer’s for his quarterly visit last week, and can’t get over how soft he is. Now whenever people ask what breed he is, I say he’s a toy poodle crossed with a lamb. One lady actually believed me yesterday. No joke! Sheesh.