Picnic, Lightning (Pitt Poetry Series)
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Over the past decade, Billy Collins has emerged as the most beloved American poet since Robert Frost, garnering critical acclaim and broad popular appeal. Annie Proulx admits, "I have never before felt possessive about a poet, but I am fiercely glad that Billy Collins is ours." John Updike proclaims his poems "consistently startling, more serious than they seem, they describe all the worlds that are and were and some others besides."
This special, limited edition celebrates Billy Collins's years as U.S. Poet Laureate. Picnic, Lightning--one of the books that helped establish and secure his reputation and popularity during the 1990s--combines humor and seriousness, wit and sublimity. His poems touch on a wide range of subjects, from jazz to death, from weather to sex, but share common ground where the mind and heart can meet. Whether reading him for the first time or the fiftieth, this collector's edition is a must-have for anyone interested in the poet the New York Times calls simply "the real thing."
not yet learned to crawl. This is the opening, the gambit, a pawn moving forward an inch. This is your first night with her, your first night without her. This is the first part where the wheels begin to turn, where the elevator begins its ascent, before the doors lurch apart. This is the middle. Things have had time to get complicated, messy, really. Nothing is simple anymore. Cities have sprouted up along the rivers teeming with people at cross-purposes— a million schemes, a
patient and dumbfounded they appeared in the long quiet of the afternoons. But every once in a while, one of them would let out a sound so phenomenal that I would put down the paper or the knife I was cutting an apple with and walk across the road to the stone wall to see which one of them was being torched or pierced through the side with a long spear. Yes, it sounded like pain until I could see the noisy one, anchored there on all fours, her neck outstretched, her bellowing head
want to see her plunging forward through the troughs, tunneling under the foam and spindrift on her annual, thousand-mile journey. Splitting Wood Frost covered this decades ago, and frost will cover it again tonight, the leafy disarray of this woodland now thinned down to half its trees, but this morning I stand here sweating in a thin shirt as I split a stack of ash logs into firewood with two wedges, an ax, and a blue-headed maul. The pleasures here are well known: the feet
with padded push-up styling and easy side-zip tap pants. The one on the facing page, however, who looks at me over her bare shoulder, cannot hide the shadow of annoyance in her brow. You have interrupted me, she seems to be saying, with your coughing and your loud music. Now please leave me alone; let me finish whatever it was I was doing in my organza-trimmed whisperweight camisole with keyhole closure and a point d'esprit mesh back. I wet my thumb and flip the page. Here, the one
forever, a handful of coins dropped through the grate of memory, along with the ingenious mnemonic I devised to hold them in place— all gone and forgotten before I had returned to the clearing of lawn in back of our quiet house with its jars jammed with pens, its notebooks and reams of blank paper, its desk and soft lamp, its table and the light from its windows. So this is my elegy for them, those six or eight exhalations, the braided rope of the syntax, the jazz of the timing,