Takes us vividly into the apprehension of death and its constant, lightninglike, possibility. And reminds us that our open-ness to the immediate possibility of Death's instant hand also opens us to life: then is the soil full of marvels......Then is the wheelbarrow a wilder blue... I like his metaphorical description of a stroke:
a tiny dark ship is
unmoored into the flow of the body's
rivers, the brain a monastery,
defenseless on the shore.
At his best, Collins rewards us with his eloquence, his wit, his accessibility, his paradoxical seriousness, his memorable phrasing, his imaginative imagery, and his very human voice. He seems to strive always to make himself clear, unlike many, lesser, talents who obfuscate in hopes their ambiguity will be taken for profundity. We readersl/listeners appreciate that he is true to his contract with us, that he is not trying to con us but to communicate with us, to entertain us, to illuminate some part of our lives. This, plus his charming in-person recitations and the sound of his recorded voice, make up the very solid foundation of his enduring popularity. It's been a long time since an American poet has both been so good at his craft and so successful in reaching so many Americans. Others who managed this rare combination include Allen Ginsburg, Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, and Emily Dickinson (though in her lifetime she was all but unpublished, unknown, and unappreciated) .
I just want to add an excellent poem by the poet. I like its pointed anger & wit. Hopefully, this is the SAME Jeffrey Harrison!
Because on the first day of class you said,
“In ten years most of you won’t be writing, ”
barely hiding that you hoped it would be true;
because you told me over and over, in front of the class,
that I was “hopeless, ” that I was wasting my time
but more importantly yours, that I just didn’t get it;
because you violently scratched out every other word,
scrawled “Awk” and “Eek” in the margins
as if you were some exotic bird,
then highlighted your own remarks in pink;
because you made us proofread the galleys
of your how-I-became-a-famous-writer memoir;
because you wanted disciples, and got them,
and hated me for not becoming one;
because you were beautiful and knew it, and used it,
making wide come-fuck-me eyes
at your readers from the jackets of your books;
because when, at the end of the semester,
you grudgingly had the class over for dinner
at your over-decorated pseudo-Colonial
full of photographs with you at the center,
you served us take-out pizza on plastic plates
but had us eat it with your good silver;
and because a perverse inspiration rippled through me,
I stole a fork, slipping it into the pocket of my jeans,
then hummed with inward glee the rest of the evening
to feel its sharp tines pressing against my thigh
as we sat around you in your dark paneled study
listening to you blather on about your latest prize.
The fork was my prize. I practically sprinted
back to my dorm room, where I examined it:
a ridiculously ornate pattern, with vegetal swirls
and the curvaceous initials of one of your ancestors,
its flamboyance perfectly suited to your
red-lipsticked and silk-scarved ostentation.
That summer, after graduation, I flew to Europe,
stuffing the fork into one of the outer pouches
of my backpack. On a Eurail pass I covered ground
as only the young can, sleeping in youth hostels,
train stations, even once in the Luxembourg Gardens.
I’m sure you remember the snapshots you received
anonymously, each featuring your fork
at some celebrated European location: your fork
held at arm’s length with the Eiffel Tower
listing in the background; your fork
in the meaty hand of a smiling Beefeater;
your fork balanced on Keats’s grave in Rome
or sprouting like an antenna from Brunelleschi’s dome;
your fork dwarfing the Matterhorn.
I mailed the photos one by one—if possible
with the authenticating postmark of the city
where I took them. It was my mission that summer.
That was half my life ago. But all these years
I’ve kept the fork, through dozens of moves
and changes—always in the same desk drawer
among my pens and pencils, its sharp points
spurring me on. It became a talisman
whose tarnished aura had as much to do
with me as you. You might even say your fork
made me a writer. Not you, your fork.
You are still the worst teacher I ever had.
You should have been fired but instead got tenure.
As for the fork, just yesterday my daughter
asked me why I keep a fork in my desk drawer,
and I realized I don’t need it any more.
It has served its purpose. Therefore
I am returning it to you with this letter.