Thursday, February 10, 2011


Billy Collins is probably my favorite American poet. The poking-fun tone and the everday subjects he uses really appeal to me. The Lanyard and Litany are at the top of my Billy Collins’ list.

I came across this video a few weeks ago. This little guy reciting “Litany” makes me so happy…he’s so stinkin’ cute. (It’s also a testament to parents who to read to their children.) Take the time to watch it, and I promise you will have a smile on your face before it’s even over.

Here's the poem…
Litany by Billy Collins
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 plays with metaphor as a small jab at other poets who use, or rather over use, this literary device.


  1. Utterly delightful. There's a future Professor of Literature at Notre Dame or Fordham, mostly Fordham if I'm honest. I was going to say Yale or Princeton, but really whimsy at that level is beyond them.
    I do wish I had this for my last blog post. It would have bolstered my argument no end.

  2. @Vince
    I know! Isn't he great? It's as if he truly comprehends what he's saying.
    If you are so inclinded, there are two more of him on youtube...

    Collins's Walking Across the Atlantic (told to a dolphin)

    Tennyson's The Eagle (dressed as superman)


  3. Hmmm, not so sure now. One is fine, three smacks of the mother going a bit nuts. The child is three & a half, tops.