Aping Billy Collins


Let me try to mimic Billy,

it certainly couldn’t hurt;

I don’t think he would mind.

You be the teacher,

I’ll be the student.

But you don’t use semi-colon, do you?

You like hyphens –

instead of colons.

Most of your work,

or the small book that I have,

you mostly use the tercet structure –


Many are plain,

but then now and again –

you really do break the metaphor!

And such good metaphors, too.

Tell me,

do they come natural to you?

Or must you ponder much?

And a modern poet!

Amazing yet,

I do like your work.

Why is that?

Do you not follow

the edict of Eliot –

‘The reading must be

unapproachable ?’

(From) Quiet


Scenes of Hell

(A) Hippo Takes a Holiday

(on) New Year’s Day.

(So) Carpe Diem

(in) Dublin.

(I’m not) Lost

The Day Lassie Died.

Names upon pages,

pages of a book

I bought at Barnes & Nobles

in Charlottesville.

Am I working at a new plateau?

I like it, as modern poetry goes;

but, still, I’m just a nouveau.

I like William Carlos;

Wallace is too hard.

I suppose this was T.S.’s behest.

I don’t know, but I was told

to mimic the poems of a poet,

as a mold.

So I’ve copied you, Mr. Collins –

It’s so fructifying.

©Marvin Loyd Welborn 2011


  1. i only read one of billy collins poems so far (shame on me…..) and this was a funny one…like yours…smiles…loved it…esp. the middle part with the use of parentheses..

    • Yes…in fact, I copy it here…

      Poetry 101

      I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem

      and watch him probe his way out,

      or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem

      waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

      They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

      – Billy Collins, “Introduction to Poetry”

  2. One of the really effect things about the way you wrote this (for me) is how you addressed it in the second person. I also like the references to other poets: Eliot, Williams, Stevens. In your conversation with the poet, you’ve managed to teach us about him. Thank you.

  3. Such a delightful wit and I agree fructifying has spent too long hidden away and should be aired out and used. Great adoption of style while maintaining your voice. I’m so glad I stopped in today.

  4. I liked Billy Collins, by I like Galway Kinnell better. I can’t remember who is the poet laureate this year. You do a good job of imitating Billy!

    • Philip Levine was named the 18th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry of the United States, it was reported on August 9, 2011. Levine will succeed W.S. Merwin, who was the country’s seventeenth Poet Laureate.

      Former Poets: Kay Ryan, Charles Simic, Ted Kooser, Louise Glück, Billy Collins, Rita Dove, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Frost, Karl Shapiro, Allen Tate, Robert Penn Warren, Richard Wilbur, Joseph Brodsky, Stanley Kunitz, Robert Hass, Donald Hall, Robert Pinsky (three terms), Mark Strand, Audre Lorde and Maxine Kumin, among others.
      [fm Wikipedia]

  5. OK, guilty confession: I don’t know my Billy Collins – *quick ducks as the tomatoes fly.

    I do know the line everyone is always quoting about not tying a poem down and beating the living crap out of it to understand it – yeah, I get that. I want to read him now to appreciate what you did with that very intriguing “(From) Quiet” stanza.

  6. I enjoyed the poem, though I am a little embarrassed to say I had to look up fructifying. The above comments are right – it is a wonderful word!
    I am going to have to read Billy Collins now.

  7. Fructifying!!!! How much fun is this?!!? I loved what you did here and adding “mostly” as the fourth line to the statement about writing in tercets is absolutely hilarious! Love this piece!


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