Slow-Cooked Sentences

Spring feverish

Rachael Conlin Levy
A belly flower
The desert is blooming: Huffaker Hills Trail.

Billy Collins is a favorite poet of mine. Indeed, he’s a popular poet with many: His readings regularly sell out and he reportedly received a six-figure advance when he switched publishers. The two-term U.S. poet laureate‘s work is praised for being approachable, witty, quirky, tender and profound, the very same things that critics argue make his poems pedestrian.

But I’m not here to discuss the faults and merits of Collins, but to share one of his poems that seems to be written for weeks like this one, which is just half over and already has been packed with painting, scrubbing, raking and planting.

“Advice to writers”
by Billy Collins

Even if it keeps you up all night,
wash down the walls and scrub the floor
of your study before composing a syllable.

Clean the place as if the Pope were on his way.
Spotlessness is the niece of inspiration.

The more you clean, the more brilliant
your writing will be, so do not hesitate to take
to the open fields to scour the undersides
of rocks or swab in the dark forest
upper branches, nests full of eggs.

When you find your way back home
and stow the sponges and brushes under the sink,
you will behold in the light of dawn
the immaculate altar of your desk,
a clean surface in the middle of a clean world.

From a small vase, sparkling blue, lift
a yellow pencil, the sharpest of the bouquet,
and cover pages with tiny sentences
like long rows of devoted ants
that followed you in from the woods.

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One response to “Spring feverish”

  1. We need to go there this weekend! How pretty. Very cool poem! K

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