Austin McMillan
Billy Collins was born in 1941 in New York City. He received his Bachelors degree from the College of the Holy Cross and his PhD from The University of California-Riverside. In 1975, Collins co-founded the Mid-Atlantic review with partner Mike Shannon. Collins's most popular publishing's are in a book he created called Questions About Angels. He was once named "The most popular poet in America" by Bruce Weber of the New York Times.


1 The name of the author is the first to go

2 followed obediently by the title, the plot,

3 the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel

4 which suddenly becomes one you have never read,

5 never even heard of,

6 as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor

7 decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,

8 to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

9 Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye

10 and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,

11 and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

12 something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,

13 the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

14 Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,

15 it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,

16 not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

17 It has floated away down a dark mythological river

18 whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,

19 well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those

20 who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

21 No wonder you rise in the middle of the night

22 to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.

23 No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted

24 out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

Billy Collins

Upon reading this poem, many probably think that this is a light and simple poem about people being forgetful, but to me this poem means much more. To me this poem represents the common happenings of a student from the past. Lines 1-5 is describing a new book. The use of tone shows us that the student is dreading reading this novel. We as students tend to focus more on the fact that we have to do work other than actually doing the work itself. I am a huge example of this. Lines 5-11 are describing the loss of knowledge that once consumed the minds of elementary schools students. It is as if the new knowledge is leaking and being taken over by more intensive facts. This symbolizes the reason as to why adults can't remember the small, but important facts of the fifth grade. As described in this poem, once the knowledge is lost, it does not return. You are no longer to pull lost facts they were once memories, out of nowhere. The last few lines display the lack of enthusiasm that was once there for learning. "No wonder you rise in the middle of the night, to look up the date of a famous battle," is a perfect example of what happens throughout life after school. Collins is extremely good about emotionally connecting people to his poems. The amount of relation that I feel for this poem is infinite.

I Ask You

1 What scene would I want to be enveloped in
2 more than this one,
3 an ordinary night at the kitchen table,
4 floral wallpaper pressing in,
5 white cabinets full of glass,
6 the telephone silent,
7 a pen tilted back in my hand?

8 It gives me time to think
9 about all that is going on outside--
1 0leaves gathering in corners,
11 lichen greening the high grey rocks,
12 while over the dunes the world sails on,
13 huge, ocean-going, history bubbling in its wake.

14 But beyond this table
15 there is nothing that I need,
16 not even a job that would allow me to row to work,
17 or a coffee-colored Aston Martin DB4
18 with cracked green leather seats.

19 No, it's all here,
20 the clear ovals of a glass of water,
21 a small crate of oranges, a book on Stalin,
22 not to mention the odd snarling fish
23 in a frame on the wall,
24 and the way these three candles--
25 each a different height--
26 are singing in perfect harmony.

27 So forgive me
28 if I lower my head now and listen
29 to the short bass candle as he takes a solo
30 while my heart
31 thrums under my shirt--
32 frog at the edge of a pond--
33 and my thoughts fly off to a province
34 made of one enormous sky
35 and about a million empty branches.

Billy Collins

When I first read this poem I thought of one word: home. It seems to me that Billy Collins is saying that sometimes all you need is right there in front of you. We often look for materialistic things and people to that hole inside us, but only the true origin of where we began can satisfy that longing. Billy Collins is saying that he feels true comfort looking at the objects in his home and just writing, as he states in lines 1-7. It is clear to here his comforted tone in these lines by the fondness in his voice and the imagery that is painted by warm details. His tone throughout the entire poem is not aggressive, passionate, or restless. It is a tone of reflection and at peace. There is no rhyme scheme in this poem but it still flows well because of all of the details Collins lists of his home. I relate to this poem so well. I am such a busy person. I go from school, to soccer, to football, and to friends. I forget how much comfort I get from being silent and sitting at home with my family. I really don’t need much other than my home and my family.

Man In Space

1 All you have to do is listen to the way a man
2 sometimes talks to his wife at a table of people
3 and notice how intent he is on making his point
4 even though her lower lip is beginning to quiver,

5 and you will know why the women in science
6 fiction movies who inhabit a planet of their own
7 are not pictured making a salad or reading a magazine
8 when the men from earth arrive in their rocket,

9 why they are always standing in a semicircle
10 with their arms folded, their bare legs set apart,
11 their breasts protected by hard metal disks.
Billy Collins

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This Billy Collins’ poem ends with the strong visual of warrior women standing together ready for a fight to the death with male intruders however this is only the figment of a science fiction movie. In lines 1 through 4 the author is demonstrating a man’s need to assert his dominance in a relationship even when it begins to hurt his wife’s feelings. This immediately hooked me into the poem because I did not know what Collins’ was going to say about this. It also made me reflect on the way I treat women and other people which is hopefully a lot better than embarrassing them in front of other people. The first few lines also provide a reason as to why science fiction women who live on their own planet are not doing stereotypical chores or activities like “making a salad or reading a magazine” because they do not have any one bringing them down and putting them in that place. The title of this work especially contributes to Collins' purpose because it puts men into an uncomfortable setting which draws attention to the science fiction aspect of this poem. Billy Collins writes about a variety of topics, and this poem is just a glimpse into his perspective on feminism although he uses a light and humorous tone.


1 You know the parlor trick.

2 wrap your arms around your own body

3 and from the back it looks like

4 someone is embracing you

5 her hands grasping your shirt

6 her fingernails teasing your neck

7 from the front it is another story

8 you never looked so alone

9 your crossed elbows and screwy grin

10 you could be waiting for a tailor

11 to fit you with a straight jacket

12 one that would hold you really tight.

Billy Collins

As I was reading this poem it made me think about how people who are truly lonely will do anything that they can to make it seem as if they are not. They will surround themselves with as many people as they can and act as if the are loved by everyone, but deep down they still feel alone. Collins beautifully uses a silly parlor trick to convey something with a much deeper meaning. He uses great detail in lines 5-6 to explain what this trick looks like from the back or outside, and he also uses great detail in line 9 to describe what the same trick looks like from the front or inside. This poem has no rhyme scheme but it still flows well. When he compares this position to someone waiting for a straight jacket I think about the fact that these type of people can end up going crazy with loneliness, like someone in an asylum. Sometimes the person who seems the most popular is actually completely alone on the inside.