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On the Same Page with Billy Collins

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Billy Collins served two terms as the US Poet Laureate, from 2001-2003, and was New York State Poet Laureate from 2004-2006. Collins talks about The Apple that Astonished Paris, a collection of some of his most anthologized poems, including Introduction to Poetry, Another Reason Why I Dont Keep a Gun in the House and Advice to Writers. Originally published in 1988, it was reprinted in February 2006 with a new preface by Collins in honor of this anniversary. The success of this collection over the years has made it one of the all-time best sellers for the Press.

Collins has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation and the New York Foundation for the Arts and has taught at Columbia University, Sarah Lawrence, and Lehman College, City University of New York.

Join host Tommy Sanders as he sits down with Collins in Fayetteville for this one on one interview, afterwards Sanders speaks with panelists Jo McDougall, Melissa King and Hank Kaminsky at Nightbird Books.

Transcript

WELCOME TO ON THE SAME PAGE, OUR FIRST EVER EPISODE. WE ARE IN FAYETTEVILLE IN A BRAND NEW BOOKSTORE CALLED NIGHT BIRD BOOKS. THIS IS THE BOOK WE ARE TALKING AT A BOOK OF POEM POEMS WRITTENY BILLY COLLINS. HE IS A POET WHO ACCOMPLISHED SOMETHING REMARKABLE. HE HAS WRITTEN BOOKS WHO GET CRITICAL ACCLAIM AND HE HAS A HUGE AUDIENCE. HE SELLS A LOT OF BOOKS. THIS IS HIS FIRST BOOK OF COLLECTED POEMS, IT HAS ORIGINS RIGHT HERE IN FAYETTEVILLE, ARKANSAS. WE WILL TALK TO HIM AND FIND OUT ABOUT IT AND MUCH MORE PLUS TALK TO A PANEL OF OUR READERS, A FEW OF HOM WHOM ARE READERS AS WELL.

BILLY COLLINS IS HERE IN FAYETTEVILLE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS TO GIVE A POETRY READING AS PART OF THE WIN THROP ROCKEFELLER DISTINGUISHED SERIES, IN CELEBRATION OF 25 YEARS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS PRESS WHICH IS THE CONNECTION BETWEEN YOUR FIRST PUBLISHED BOOK OF POEMS AND OUR STATE OF ARKANSAS. WOULD YOU EXPLAIN HOW THAT CAME ABOUT?

WELL, IT WAS BACK IN 1986, I WAS IN MY 40s. I HOPE YOU DON'T DO THE MATH TOO QUICKLY ON THIS. I HADN'T HAD A SERIOUS BOOK OF POEMS OUT. AND I SUBMITTED POEMS FOR THE UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS PRESS ON A RECOMMENDATION OF A FRIEND OF MINE. TO MAKE A LONG STORY SHORT, WILLIAMS WHO WAS THE DIRECTOR AND WHO STILL LIVES HERE AND WITH WHOM I HAD LUNCH TODAY TOOK THE POEMS AND THAT BECAME THIS BOOK CALLED "THE APPLE THAT ASTONISHED PARIS."

YOU HAD SUBMITTED POEMS TO OUR PUBLISHING OUTFITS?

I HAD BEEN SLAPPED AROUND, IGNORED AND REJECTED. WE NEED TO FIND BETTER WORDS THAN ACCEPTANCE AND REJECTION. THEY ARE SO FRAUGHT WITH PSYCHOLOGICAL WEIGHT. THE BOOK HAS BEEN IN PRINT FOR 17 YEARS WHICH IS AN INTERESTING IN-DOOR RECORD FOR ME SO WE ARE CELEBRATING THAT AND CELEBRATING THE 25th NEW YEARRY OF THE PRESS ITSELF OF THE NEW EDITION OF THE BOOK.

IT SHOCKED WHEN YOU FOUND OUT FROM THE POINT OF YOUR ACCEPTANCE TO THE POINT WHERE THE BOOK WOULD ACTUALLY BE PUBLISHED.

I WANTED IT TO BECOME PUBLISHED THE NEXT DAY. IT WAS ABOUT A YEAR AND A HALF WAIT. BUT MILLER WILLIAMS IN HIS SAGE KNOWLEDGEABLE MODE SAID, BILLY THAT TIME IS GOING TO PASS ANYWAY, THIS WAY YOU HAVE A BOOK WAITING FOR YOU AT THE END OF IT AS THE DAY GOS.

YOU ARE IN YOUR 40s. WE HAVEN'T DONE THE MATH TOO EXTENSIVELY. HOW LONG HAD YOU BEEN WRITING POETRY UP TO THAT POINT?

SINCE I WAS IN MY SINGLE DIGITS. SINCE I WAS A CHILD REALLY. MORBIDLY AS A TEENAGER.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN "MORBIDLY."

I WROTE DESPERATE ADOLESCENT HOMES BUT THE FACT I WAS DESPERATELY MISUNDERSTOOD AND HEART BROKEN BY SOME UNWORTHY NINTH-GRADE GIRL. I WROTE THESE POEMS WITH A LOT OF IMAGES AND DAGGERS AND BLEEDING HEARTS AND REALLY TATTOO PARLOR POETRY. IF THERE IS GOOD WRITING IN YOU, YOU GET TO IT THROUGH BAD WRITING. I THINK AT LEAST IN MY CASE I HAD AN INORDINATE AMOUNT OF BAD WRITING IN ME WHICH IS WHY IT TOOK ME SO LONG TO GET TO THE GOOD WRITING. I THINK IT IS KIND OF A MATTER OF EXCAVATION OR EXORCISM WHERE YOU GET THE BAD STUFF OUT AND MAKE ALL THE MISTAKES AND GET ALL THE CLICHES OUT OF YOURSELF AND MAYBE YOU HAVE SOMETHING AND IN SOME CASES MAYBE YOU DON'T. IT IS JUST BAD STUFF RIGHT TO THE BOTTOM.

YOU ARE ALWAYS COMPELLED TO RIGHT. YOU NEVER STOPPED WRITING?

I NEVER REALLY STOPPED. I WAS GOING TO GIVE UP AT SOME POINT. A FEW YEARS BEFORE THE UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS PRESS ACCEPTED THIS MANUSCRIPT I WAS GETTING PUBLISHED IN TINY, FLY-BY-NIGHT MAGAZINES WITH STRANGE NAMES. THE SATISFACTION OF SEEING MY NAME IN PRINT IN THESE LITTLE MAGAZINES HAD HAD WORN PRETTY THIN AND I DIDN'T HAVE A CAN BOO. I WAS IN MY 40s. I WAS IN PATHETIC CONDITION AT THAT TIME. AND I DID FEEL LIKE THROWING IT IN AND I THOUGHT MAYBE -- MAYBE I AM NOT A POET. MAYBE I WILL OPEN UP A FRAME SHOP IN TOWN AND PURSUE SOME OTHER CAREER. MILLER WILLIAMS KIND OF BAILED ME OUT OF THAT DARK SPOT.

AND IT TURNED A CORNER. AND IT WASN'T LONG BEFORE YOUR WORK WAS EARNING HIGH CRITICAL ACCLAIM AND YOU HAD THIS EXTREMELY BROAD FOR A POET IN AMERICA BASE, A GROUP OF FANS, READERS. DID YOU THINK ABOUT HOW THAT CAME ABOUT, WHY THAT IS?

I THINK IT WOULD BE DANGEROUS TO STOP AND THINK ABOUT THAT TOO LONG. I DON'T KNOW. I AM HAPPY TO HAVE IT. IT IS WHAT EVERY POET OR WRITER SECRETLY WANTS. TO WRITE OR -- OR NOT SO SECRETLY. WRITING IS AN ACT OF HOPE IN THAT YOU ARE HOPING SOMEONE WILL READ YOU. WHEN THAT HOPE IS FULFILLED, IT IS VERY GRATIFYING. I FORGET HOW MANY COPIES THE UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS PRESS PUBLISHED OR PRINTED IN 1986 OR '88, I GUESS. MAYBE A COUPLE THOUSAND. NOW THAT'S A LOT FOR POETRY. WHEN THAT SOLD OUT I WAS VERY HAPPY. POETS HAVE FAIRLY MODEST INVESTMENTS OR HOPES FOR THEIR FUTURE.

THE BOOK IS CALLED "THE APPLE THAT ASTONISHED PARIS." I WANT YOU TO READ AND YOU GRACIOUSLY AGREED TO READ A POEM CALLED "INTRODUCTION TO POETRY" FOR US.

IT WAS WRITTEN A WHILE AGO BUT IT BECAME A ANTHEM TO JUMP AHEARING AID FROM THIS DESPAIRING 40-YEAR-OLD POET TO A POSTLAUREATE A FEW SECONDS LATER. I GOT THIS PROGRAM TO GET MOW ETRY INTO -- POETRY INTO HIGH SCHOOLS. I WAS TRYING TO GET STUDENTS TO LISTEN TO CLEAR, CON TREA CONTEY POEMS WITHOUT GETTING A HEADACHE WITH HOW TO RESPOND TO THEM. THE POETRY PROGRAM IS CALLED POETRY 180 AND IT WAS MEANT AS A BALANCE TO THIS OVEREMPHASIS ON ANALYSIS. THIS POEM WHICH I WROTE INNOCENTLY ENOUGH WAY BEFORE THAT BECAME AN ANTHEM. IT IS ABOUT TEACHING POETRY AND IT IS CALLED "INTRODUCTION TO POETRY" AND I REFER TO MY STUDENTS IN THE FIRST LINE. I ASK THEM TO TAKE A POEM AND HOLD IT UP TO THE LIGHT LIKE A COLOR SLIDE OR PRESS AN EAR AGAINST A TITHE. 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 WATER SKI 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.

I LOVE THAT POEM BECAUSE IT DOESN'T REALLY APPLY TO ME BECAUSE I AM SO LAZY, I DON'T LOOK FOR DEEPER MEANING. I TRY TO ENJOY THE WORDS AND THE IMAGES AND THINGS LIKE THAT. BUT I GUESS THAT'S WHAT YOU ARE TELLING ME.

IF YOU WERE IN A HIGH SCHOOL CLASS, YOU MIGHT BE COMPELLED.

WHY DO PEOPLE FEEL COMPELLED TO LOOK FOR HIDDEN MEANING.

I THINK TEACHERS TEND TO TEACH POEMS THAT REQUIRE THEIR INTERVENTION. OTHERWISE, THEY WOULDN'T HAVE A JOB. SO IF TEACHERS PRESENTED COMPLETELY SELF-EXPLANATORY POEMS THAT DELIVER THEIR PLEASURES ON THE FIRST BOUNCE, THEN SCHOOL WOULD BE OUT EARLY. THAT'S A SIMPLE VACATION. THAT'S ONE REASON, I THINK.

YOU SAID THAT BECAME THE GUIDING THESIS FOR THIS POETRY 180, 180 MEANS HOW MANY DAYS IN A SCHOOL YEAR.

ROUGHLY 180 DAYS. IT IMPLIED TURNING BACK TO POETRY, MAKING A U TURN TO COME BACK TO POETRY.

HOW MUCH WORK DO YOU HAVE TO PUT IN, HOW MUCH REWRITING AND PAIRING DOWN IS THERE IN POETRY?

POETRY IS NOT LABOR EXTENSI EXTENSIVE. IT IS SAID AN ANT SETS AN EXAMPLE FOR US ALL BUT IT IS NOT A GOOD ONE. IT WAS ALSO SAID THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A POET WAS TO FIGURE OUT WHAT TO DO WITH THE OTHER 23.5 HOURS OF THE DAY. I TEND TO WRITE MY POEMS STRAIGHT THROUGH AND THEN THE REVISION TAKES PLACE LATER. BUT THE REVISION IS NEVER CONCEPTUAL. I AM NOT MESSING WITH THE FABRIC OF THE POEM. I AM MAKING METRICAL CHANGES, CHANGES IN THE MUSIC AND STRAIGHTENING OUTLINES AND MAKING THE READER'S PASSAGE THROUGH THE POEM MORE PLEASURABLE. THE CONCEPTUAL PART IS USUALLY DONE IN ONE SITTING.

AGAIN, THE NAME OF THE BOOK IS "THE APPLE THAT ASTONISHED PARIS," YOUR FIRST PUBLISHED BOOK. BILLY COLLINS IS OUR GUEST WHICH IS THE FORME FORMER POETLAUREATF THE UNITED STATES. THERE ARE SEVERAL BOOKS WHERE YOU PLACE YOURSELF IN AN ABSTRACT CONCEPT LIKE THE BLUE AS IN OUT OF THE BLUE OR THE VANISHING POINT LIKE YOU WOULD SEE IN A PICTURE. WHY DO YOU DO THAT?

I THINK I AM PRONE -- OR I THINK POETRY IS PRONE OR GIVES YOU THE FREEDOM TO MAKE IMAGINATIVE VOYAGES OR JOURNEYS. MANY OF THESE POEMS START IN A REGULAR SETTING BUT THEN THEY FLIP DOWN SOME RABBIT HOLE IN SOME AREA OF SPECULATION WHERE IN THE VANISHING POINT POEM, I ACTUALLY TRAVEL OUT TO THE VANISHING POINT, I GET THERE AND THEN I LOOK BACK AND I LOOK AT EVERYTHING FROM COMING TOWARD ME. IT IS FLIPPING PERSPECTIVES LIKE THAT THAT POETRY -- POETRY DOES OFFER ALL KINDS OF WRITING THE MOST IMAGINATIVE FREEDOM POSSIBLE AND I LIKE POEMS THAT TRY TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THAT.

YOU ARE DOING A POETRY READING TONIGHT AS WE TAPE THIS PROGRAM AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS. DO YOU LIKE READING POEMS? DO YOU LIKE READING YOUR POEMS?

I DO. IT IS A WAY OF GETTING THE WORK OUT AND IT DOES ADD A THEATRICAL ELEMENT TO IT. I THINK THE AUDIENCE ENJOYS NOT JUST THE POET READING BUT THEY ENJOY BEING TOGETHER WITH LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE. WRITING POETRY IS A VERY SOLO ACTIVITY AND I THINK GENERALLY PEOPLE READ POETRY IN SILENCE AND PRIVACY. AND IN A POETRY READING, YOU HAVE MAYBE DOZENS OR HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE COMING OUT OF THEIR PRIVACY INTO A COMMUNAL SPACE AND I THINK THERE IS KIND OF A PLEASURE -- AN UNSTATED PLEASURE WITH BEING WITH LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE.

YOU AGREED TO READ ONE MORE POEM, IF YOU ARE STILL AGREEABLE.

OF COURSE. THIS IS ANOTHER POEM FROM THE "APPLE THAT ASTONISHED PARIS" WHICH IS STILL MY BEST TITLE. IT IS CALLED ANOTHER REASON WHY I DON'T KEEP A GUN IN THE HOUSE. "THE NEIGHBORS DOG WILL NOT STOP BARKING. HE IS BARKING THE SAME HIGH, RHYTHMIC BARK THAT HE BARKS EVERY TIME THEY LEAVE THE HOUSE. THEY MUST SWITCH HIM ON ON THEIR WAY OUT. THE NEIGHBOR'S DOG WILL NOT STOP BARKING. I CLOSE ALL THE WINDOWS IN THE HOUSE AND PUT ON A BEETHOVENE SYMPHONY FULL BLAST BUT I CAN STILL HEAR HIM MUFFLED UNDER THE MUSIC BARKING, BARKING, BARKING AND NOW I CAN SEE HIM SITTING IN THE ORCHESTRA. HIS HEAD RAISED CONFIDENTLY AS IF BEETHOVEN HAD INCLUDED A PART FOR THE BARKING DOG. WHEN THE RECORD ENDS, HE IS STILL SITTING THERE IN THE OBOE SECTION STILL BARKING WITH HIS EYES FIXATED BY THE CONDUCTOR WHILE THE OTHER MUSICIANS LISTEN IN RESPECTFUL SILENCE TO THE FAMOUS BARKING DOG SOLO THAT ENDLESS CODA, THAT FIRST TAKENNED BEETHOVEN AS AN INNOVATIVE GENIUS ."

THANK YOU FOR THAT POEM AND THE BOOK OF POEM. THANKS FOR MAKING IT TO ARKANSAS. BILLY COLLINS, APPRECIATE IT.

GREAT TO BE HERE. THANK YOU.

WE ARE BACK WITH OUR PANEL OF READERS TO TALK ABOUT "THE APPLE THAT ASTONISHED PARIS." I WANT TO INTRODUCE THE PANELLIST, JO McDOUGALL IS A POET. YOU AUTHORED FIVE BOOKS OR IS IT SIX?

IT IS FIVE.

STUCK ON FIVE. ONE OF WHICH WAS FEATURED ON THIS SHOW NOT TOO LONG AGO. AND THE LATEST IS CALLED "SATISFIED WITH HABIT." ONE OF YOUR WORKS ADAPTED TO THE STAGE. CONGRATULATIONS ON THAT. GLAD TO HAVE YOU HERE. NUMEROUS WROATS. MELISSA KING IS AN AUTHOR WHOSE MEMOIR ABOUT BAKE SAYS "SHE'S GOT NEXT" HAS RECEIVED CRITICAL ACCLAIM. MELISSA'S WORK CAN BE SEEN IN "SPORTS ILLUSTRATED," CHICAGO READER AND SPORT LITERATE MAGAZINE. AND HANK KAMINSKI GREW UP IN THE OZARKS. ONE OF HIS LATEST AND GREATEST MOST RECENT, WOULDS CAN SEEN UP ON THE TOWN SQUARE IN THE TOWN CENTER. AND IT IS CALLED "THE WORLD PEACE PRAYER FOUNTAIN."

YOU GOT IT RIGHT. QUITE A FEW WORDS.

WORDS IS WHAT WE ARE TALKING ABOUT TODAY AND BILLY COLLINS, ONE OF THE MOST POPULAR POETS PROBABLY EVER IN AMERICAN HISTORY AND, OF COURSE, POETLAUREATE OF THE UNITED STATES. ARE YOU FAMILIAR ARE YOU WITH HIS WORK?

NOT REALLY. IT HAS BEEN WONDERFUL TO READ HIS WORK AND PREPARING FOR THIS. I AM A NEWCOMER.

YOU HAD SEEN SOME OF IT?

YES, I HAD. I DID NOT KNOW ALL THE BOOKS. THAT LASS BEEN A JOY TO FIND MOST OF THE BOOKS AND LOOK AT THOSE. BUT I REMEMBER THE POEMS FROM JOURNALS. I SUBSCRIBED WAY TOO MANY JOURNALS AND I REMEMBER SEEING HIS WORK IN POETRY AND BEING BLOWN AWAY BY IT. AND THEN HIS WONDERFUL INTRODUCTION TO POETRY POEM THAT'S IN "THE APPLE THAT ASTONISHED PARIS" IS IDEAL FOR TEACHERS TO BREAK THE HOUSE ABOUT POETRY TO TEACH TO STUDENTS. I USED TO USE THAT WHEN I WAS TEACHING.

HOW IS IT USEFUL TO A TEACHER? BILLY SAID IN SOME WAYS SOME TEACHERS FELT STYMIED BY THAT BECAUSE IT INHIBITING THEM FROM GOING DEEPER INTO A POEM.

STUDENTS ARE SCARED TO DEATH OF POETRY AND YOU HAVE TO GET DOWN ON THEIR LEVEL OF WHAT THEY MIGHT UNDERSTAND. AND HERE IS A POET TELLING THEM NOT TO DO WHAT THE TEACHER USUALLY TELLS YOU, WHICH IS TO ANALYZE THE POEM, WHAT DOES IT MEAN. STUDENTS HATE THAT BECAUSE THEY OFTEN DON'T KNOW.

HANK, HAD YOU READ BILLY COLLINS BEFORE WE GOT THE BOOK TO YOU?

NO. I ACTUALLY BOUGHT A BOOK BUT IT GOT LOST ON THE SHELF. I DON'T REMEMBER READING IT WILL UNTIL I OPENED THIS BOOK.

I THINK WE ALL HAVE A BOOK LIKE THAT WE BOUGHT WITH GOOD INTENTIONS AND STILL HAVEN'T GOTTEN BACK TO. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE HIS STYLE, MELISSA?

I THINK HIS STYLE IS ACCESSIBLE BUT ALSO VERY INSIGHTFUL. I APPRECIATED SEVERAL POEMS WHERE THERE WAS MOMENTS OF RECOGNITION, KIND OF -- I LIKE TO THINK OF THEM AS AH-HAH MOMENTS. YOU HAVE EXPERIENCED IT BEFORE OR KNOW EXACTLY WHAT HE IS TALKING ABOUT. I CAME AWAY WITH THAT AND APPRECIATED THAT ABOUT HIS POEMS.

A LOT OF US LIKE POEMS THAT TAKE EVERYDAY THINGS AND EXPERIENCES AND MAKE THEM SEEM MORE MEANINGFUL WITH THE CLEVER USE OF LANGUAGE. I FIND A LOT OF THAT IN BILLY COLLINS' WORK, DO YOU, JO?

ABSOLUTELY. THIS WORD "ACCESSIBLE" IS QUITE TRUE BUT I THINK WE HAVE TO BE CAREFUL WITH THE WORD "AS"ACCES" WITH A POET THAT'S FRAUGHT WITH PERIL. A CRITIC MIGHT SAY BILLY COLLINS IS ACCESSIBLE, HE MIGHT MEAN THE WORK IS VERY SIMPLE. THEY MIGHT SAY IT IS VERY SIMPLE AND NOT VERY INTERESTING. THERE WAS AN INTERVIEW IN 2004 WITH A GREAT INTERVIEW WITH BILLY COLLINS AND HE TALKS ABOUT ACCESSIBILITY AND HE SAYS IT IS REALLY JUST TO IT OPEN THE DOOR AND LET THE READER IN AND THEN ONCE YOU HAVE GOT HIM IN, YOU LEAD HIM ON TO ALL KINDS OF JOURNEYS THAT WOULD PLEASE ANY CRITIC THAT WOULD PLEASE THE READER, TOO. I THINK THAT WORD IS VERY MISUNDERSTOOD IN POETRY.

ISN'T IT A CREDIT TO HIS SKILL THAT HE IS ABLE TO GIVE THE APPEARANCE OF SUCH SIMPLICITY AND SUCH ACCESSIBILITY AND YET NOT DO THOSE THINGS?

IT IS NOT SIMPLE. THE CRAFTSMANSHIP IN THESE POEMS, THE LINE BREAKS ARE PERFECT, THE WORD IS THE LANGUAGE, THE IMAGES.

YOU DESCRIBE IT IN SUCH A DIFFERENT WAY THAN I WOULD DESCRIBE IT.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE IT.

THE WAY YOU DESCRIBE IT FROM A POET'S POINT OF VIEW, I JUST LOVE THE SPACES HE PAINTS. I LIKE THE FACT HE PUTS ME INTO A SPACE THAT I CAN ACTUALLY IMAGINE BEING IN, THE DESCRIPTIONS ARE SO ACCURATE THAT I COULD FEEL THE EDGES OF THOSE SPACES.

ARE THINGS LEFT WANTING FOR YOU IN THOSE POEMS? ARE THEY SATISFYING AT THE END OF THE POEM TO YOU IN GENERAL AND SPECIFICALLY?

IT IS NOT LEFT WANTING. I FIND THEM REALLY SATISFYING. I THINK IN ANY KIND OF WRITING, IF YOU CAN GET SOMEHOW BACK TO THE PLACE YOU STARTED THAT'S ALWAYS VERY GOOD. I HEARD A FICTION WRITER SAY RECENTLY YOU NEED TO TELL THE STORY OF YOUR STORY IN THE FIRST LINE OF YOUR FIRST PARAGRAPH. I THINK HE DOES THAT. HE DOESN'T START OUT AND NOT GET BACK TO WHERE HE STARTED. THERE'S A WHOLENESS TO IT THAT I THINK IS EFFECTIVE.

A LOT OF HIS STUFF SEEMS TO BE BUILT ON FANTASIES THAT ANY OF US MIGHT HAVE, HAVING SNOWFLAKES BEAU BY US OR BEING ON A RAILROAD TRACK AND WATCHING EVERYTHING CONVERGE. HE HAS A GREAT ABILITY TO GET INTO THEM AND HAVE SO MUCH FUN WITH IT. THAT LOOKS LIKE IT WOULD BE HARD TO DO, TO CARRY A READER ON AND MAKE AS MUCH FUN FOR THE READER. YOU HAVE HAD TO DO THAT. YOU HAVE HAD TO CARRY THE READERS ON WITH YOUR EXPLOITS AND YOUR MEMOIRS. I KNOW IT IS NOT EASY, RIGHT?

IT IS NOT EASY. I GET ANY ARTIST ANY TRYING TO COMMUNICATE HAS TO THINK WHERE THE READER IS AND WHAT THE READER WILL GET. YOU ARE TRYING TO COMMUNICATE MAYBE THE INTANGIBLE BUT, ON THE OTHER HAND, IT HAS TO BE READABLE AS WELL. AND I THINK HE STRIKES A REALLY GOOD BALANCE BETWEEN THOSE TWO THINGS.

I WANT TO ASK EACH OF YOU THIS. I WILL START WITH YOU, MELISSA. WHEN YOU ARE WRITING, ARE YOU IMAGINING A PERSON, A SET OF PEOPLE? DO YOU THINK OF YOUR AUDIENCE, WHO YOU ARE TALKING TO, WHEN YOU WRITE?

MAYBE NOT TO A PARTICULAR PERSON OR ANYTHING. BUT I SORT OF IN GENERAL THINK OF THE DISENFRANCHISED IS WHO I TRY TO WRITE TO, MAYBE. I TRY TO POINT OUT THINGS ABOUT SOCIETY OR HUMAN NATURE THAT MAYBE GET ON MY NERVES AND SOMEONE ELSE MAY HAVE ONE OF THOSE AH-HA MOMENTS AND THINK "I AM SO GLAD SOMEBODY SAID THAT" OR "WHY DIDN'T I SAY THAT."

YOU ARE WRITING FOR SOMEONE THAT MIGHT RECOGNIZE?

I TRY TO.

JO, WHAT ABOUT YOU?

WHEN I FIRST WRITE THE POEM, I DON'T THINK ANY ABOUT ANYTHING ABOUT THE POEM. IN MY REVISIONS I THINK ABOUT WHO WILL BE READING THIS. MAYBE I HAVE A WORD IN THERE THAT I DON'T NEED SUCH A BIG WORD, I CAN USE A SMALLER WORD, A LESSER WORD, A MORE -- NOT A LATINATE WORD AND PARE IS DOWN AND MAKE IT SOMETHING THAT WOULD INTRIGUE THE READER. SO, YES, I AM THINKING.

YOU HAVE A SPECIFIC AUDIENCE?

I HAVE THAT IN MY MIND.

I DON'T WRITE OR SCULPT TO A SPECIFIC AUDIENCE. I JUST HAVE A HARD ENOUGH TIME GETTING OUT OF THAT, THE COMPLEX THAT IS THE KIND OF ENVIRONMENT THAT I AM LOOKING TO COMMUNICATE IN MY SCULPTURE. I DON'T KNOW, IT IS A VERY INTERESTING QUESTION BECAUSE I NEVER REALLY HAD TO ADDRESS WHAT LEVEL THAT I CAME TO MY AUDIENCE AT.

MAYBE EACH PROJECT IS DIFFERENT, WHO KNOWS.

YEAH, SURE, SURE. SOME PIECES ARE GOING TO DEFINITELY BE LESS ACCESSIBLE. A PIECE THAT'S IN THE PUBLIC SPACE HAS TO BE ACCESSIBLE ON SOME LEVEL. I REALLY DON'T WANT TO WRITE DOWN OR TALK DOWN TO MY AUDIENCE. I TRY TO GIVE AS BIG A CONCEPT AS I CAN.

WE ARE TALKING ABOUT THE BOOK "AT APPLE THAT ASTONISHED PARIS." BILLY COLLINS HAS A CONNECTION TO OUR STATE IN THAT THE AWFERT OF ARKANSAS PUBLISHED HIS FIRST COLLECTION OF POEMS. AS YOU LOOK AT THE POEMS, WE WILL TAKE IT AROUND, WHICH ONES REALLY STRUCK YOU IN THIS COLLECTION, MELISSA?

I LIKE -- THERE IS ONE CALLED WINTER SYNTAX THAT I REALLY LIKED. SHOULD I READ A LITTLE BIT OF IT?

A SENTENCE SOUNDS OUT LIKE A LONE TRAVELLE TRAVELLER HEADINGA BLIZZARD AT NIGHT. TILTING INTO THE WIND, ONE ARM SHIELDING HIS FACE, THE TALES OF HIS THIN COAT FLAPPING HIGH PRESSURE HIM. THERE ARE EASIER WAYS OF MAKING SENSE. THE CONNOISSEURSHIP OF SUGGESTION, FOR EXAMPLE. YOU HOLD A GIRL'S FACE IN YOUR HAND LIKE A VASE. YOU LIFT A GUN FROM THE GLOVE COMPARTMENT AND TOSS IT OUT THE WINDOW INTO THE DESERT HEAT. THESE COOL MOMENTS ARE BLAZING WITH SILENCE. THE FULL MOON MAKES SENSE. WHEN A CLOUD CROSSES IT, IT BECOMES AS ELOQUENT AS A BICYCLE LEANING OUTSIDE A DRUGSTORE OR A DOG WHO SLEEPS ALL AFTERNOON IN A CORNER OF THE COUCH.BARE BRANA FORM OF WRITING. EVERY LAKE IS A NOUN.

WHAT DID YOU LIKE SO MUCH ABOUT THAT?

THE IMAGERY IS JUST BEAUTIFUL. THE FULL MOON, CLOUD PASSING OVER THE FULL MOON. I CAN SEE THAT SO PLAINLY. AGAIN, IT GETS BACK TO I GUESS YOU CALL IT THEME WHERE WE ARE TALKING ABOUT A SENTENCE IN THE FIRST PARAGRAPH AND WE GET BACK TO THE IDEA OF THE LIMITATIONS OF LANGUAGE AND SO HE PLAYS BY THE RULES, I SUSPECT, THAT ARE IN POETRY. THAT ONE SHOULD REALLY STOOD OUT AS NICE IN SO MANY DIFFERENT WAYS.

YOU MENTIONED EARLIER, HE ALWAYS GOES BACK TO WHAT HE STARTED WITH AND HE DOES THAT IN HIS POEM.

YES, HE DOES.

HE REFERS RIGHT BACK TO VOWELS AND NOUNS THAT MAKE UP SENTENCES.

WHICH ONE HAVE YOU GOT?

THIS IS CALLED "VANISHING POINT."

THE FIRST ONE IN THE BOOK.

THE FIRST ONE IN THE BOOK. IT HAS A LITTLE PROLOG WITH A "APPLE I WANT TO ASTONISH PARIS." YOU THOUGHT IT WAS JUST A PENCIL DOT ART STUDENTS MADE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CANVAS BEFORE THEY STARTED PAINTING THE BARN, CROWS, HAYSTACKS. A POINT WHERE RAILROAD TRACKS FUSE, A SPOT ENGINEERS STAIR AT FROM CABS OF TRAINS AS THEY CLAK THROUGH THE HEAT OF PRAIRIES HEADING OUT OF THE DIMENSIONAL BUT HERE I AM AT THE VANISHING POINT LOOKING BACK AT THINGS THAT ZOOM TOWARD ME, BARNS, COWS, CAN TRAS, HAYSTACKS, FARMERS, SHRINKING AND DISAPPEARING INTO THIS IOTA AS IF PULLED BY A GRAVITY THAT IS HORIZONTAL. I AM A CATCHER BEHIND THE HOME PLATE OF THE WORLD, A SCIENTIST OBSERVING A LITTLE LEAK IN REALITY. I WATCH THE HISTORY OF ARCHITECTURE NARROW DOWN TO NOTHING, ALL STRAIGHT LINES RUSHING AWAY FROM THE THEMSELVES LIKE MEN WHO HAVE CAUGHT ON FIRE. EVERY MONUMENT CONVERGES IN THIS SPEKT. IMAGINE A PERIOD THAT COULD SWALLOW ALL THE SENTENCES IN AN ENSEENPSYCHENCYCLOPEDIA. IT IS AN AMAZING SPACE HE CREATES. AT NO TIME NOT JUST AN INTELLECTUAL EXERCISE, IT IS AN EXERCISE IN SCRIPTIVE LANGUAGE, DISSCRIPTIVE IMAGES.

IT TAKES YOU THERE. JO, ONE MORE FROM ONE.

I WOULD LIKE TO READ "PASSENGERS" OUT OF THE NEW AND SELECTED POEMS. THIS POEM IS FROM THE BOOK "PICNIC LIGHTNING" WHICH ESTABLISHED BILLY COLLINS IN A VERY LARGE WAY IN THE POETIC AND THE LARGER WORLD. I LIKE THIS POEM BECAUSE IT IS TYPICAL BILLY COLLINS IN THAT THERE IS A HUMAN VOICE IN A CERTAIN PLACE SO WE KNOW WHERE WE ARE AND WE IDENTIFY WITH THIS VOICE. THEN THERE ARE SURPRISES IN THE LANGUAGE AND SURPRISES IN THE IMAGERY AND IS VERY CONVERSATIONAL. AT THE GATE I STOOD IN A REALM WILL OF BLUE SEATS WITH THE POSSIBLY COMPANY OF MY DEATH. THIS SPRAWLING MISCELLANEOUS PEOPLE CARRY ON BAGS AND PAPERBACKS THAT COULD BE GATHERED IN A FLASH INTO A BAND OF PILGRIMS ON THE LAST OPEN ROAD. NOT THAT I THINK IF OUR PLANE CRUMPLED INTO A MOUNTAIN WE WOULD ALL ASCEND TOGETHER HOLDING HANDS LIKE A RING OF SKY DIVERS INTO A SUDDEN GASP OF BRIGHTNESS OR THERE COULD BE A COMMON SPOT FOR US TO REUNITE TO JUBILIZE THE MOMENT. IT IS JUST THE WAY THAT MAN HAS HIS BRIEFCASE SO CAREFULLY ARRANGED. THE WAY THAT GIRL IS COOLING HER TEETH AND THE FLOW OF THE COMB. THAT WOMAN PASSES THROUGH HER DAUGHTER'S HAIR. AND WHEN YOU CONSIDER THE ALTITUDE, THE SECRET PARTS OF THE ENGINES AND ALL THE HARD WATER AND THE DEEP CANYONS BELOW, WELL, I JUST THINK IT WOULD BE GOOD IF ONE OF US MAYBE STOOD UP AND SAID A FEW WORDS, IF SO NOT TO INVOLVE THE POLICE, AT LEAST QUIETLY WROTE SOMETHING DOWN.

THAT'S GREAT. LOVE THAT.

I ELIMINATED A FEW LINES FOR THOSE WHO KNOW THIS POEM BY HEART TO MAKE IT A BIT SHORTER.

THAT'S GREAT. THANK YOU ALL. THANKS SO MUCH FOR COMING HERE. JO McDOUGALL, MELISSA KING, AND HANK KAMINSKY. THE "AT APPLE THAT ASTONISHED PARIS" BY BILLY COLLINS. THANKS FOR JOINING US "AT ON THE SAME PAGE."

NEW BOOKSTORE, THERE IS THE NIGHT BIRD RIGHT THERE. IT IS A SHE, RIGHT?

RIGHT.

WHERE DID THE NIGHT BIRD COME FROM?

SHE IS PAINTED BY A LOCAL ARTIST WHO IS VOTED FAYETTEVILLE'S FAVORITE ARTIST LAST YEAR. AND MY HUSBAND BOUGHT THIS FOR ME A FEW YEARS AGO AS A CHRISTMAS PRESENT. I WANTED THAT UNUSUAL NAME THAT WOULD CATCH.

NEAT. CAN THE NIGHT BIRDS CAN COME IN HERE? HOW LATE ARE YOU OPEN?

9:00.

A BOOKSTORE HAS TO DO THAT. A LOT OF PEOPLE COME OUT AND SHOP FOR BOOKS AFTER WORK AND AT NIGHT. THIS WILL BE THE INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORE.

THAT'S RIGHT. CLOSE TO DOWNTOWN FAYETTEVILLE. WE WANT IT TO BE PART OF THE NIGHT LIFE

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