Tuesday, 1 November 2005
Cambridge, MA

Tonight I feel lucky to be living in Cambridge. The rents might be higher than most places in the country and it gets mighty cold for the winter which lasts much more than the three months allotted to it by the calendar… But where else could I just walk down the street to the auditorium of a museum within the ivy halls of the big H and hear a U.S. Poet Laureate give a reading.

Afterwards, I sat for some time in the auditorium, until it was empty but for me and the chairs, hardly even noticing the folks filing past me on their way out. I just sat there getting acquainted with more of his poems, relishing the place his reading had put me in.

By the time I left the room, the cue for autographs was quite short and I said, why not. With a grin on my face I pulled out my Picnic, Lightning and asked Mr. Collins if he’d sign the margin of his poem “Marginalia.” (Yes, I amuse myself).

Billy Collins is very funny. He has a disarming, self-deprecating humor that pokes fun at the endless introspection of the poet. But the funniest moment of the whole evening has to have been during the Q & A, when a brave young undergrad—probably English Lit or some such major—was called on way in the back of the room. After the blah blah blah introduction to his question (Harvard students do so love to hear themselves talk), he got to the meat, and I quote:

“So, what’s your opinion on death?”

It was the best. An explosion of booming belly laughter rolled and rolled through the room until people were all but gasping for their breath. And then Billy Collins, kind and unassuming if still chuckling, answered that he really doesn’t like death all that much, but that without it there really would probably be no such thing as poetry since a good 96 % of it is, indeed, about mortality, dying and impermanence.

Oh, I needed a laugh today and I got one… I needed honest words today, and I got them. I needed rich imagery, and I found it. I needed to not be alone all day, and I wasn’t. I needed to write this tonight, and so I do.

Goodnight, whoever You are out there who reads my musings. Sleep tight and may your dreams be filled with laughter.

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