TOP38-DES35
This Old Poem #38:
The Poets Laureate Special Edition #2:
Billy Collinsí I Chop Some Parsley While Listening to Art Blakey's Version of "Three Blind Mice"
Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 11/16/02

  Billy Collins is the current American Poet Laureate- assuming that title last year. Unlike the other recent PLís BCís appointment was a bit of a shock, since he is not even highly regarded in the faux manner that Academics fete each other with. Part of this is resentment, because BC is a regular guest on National Public Radio & other outlets for poetry. Another reason is because he is primarily perceived as a humorist. He does not take himself seriously. Great. A fresh of breath air- get it? Unfortunately there is a big difference between being perceived as a humorist & being a humorist. This is also true for just plain old being a poet.
  BC has the typical Academic resume- winning a detritus of prizes screed across the back slope of his career. Hereís a quote from bad poet & worse critic Edward Hirsch regarding BCís book The Art of Drowning: ĎBilly Collins is an American original, a metaphysical poet with a funny bone and a sly questioning intelligence. He is an ironist of the void and his poems--witty, playful, and beautifully turned--bump up against the deepest human mysteries.í Where have we seen this kind of blurb before? If you answered everywhere give yourself a kiss. Being an original of something is akin to being the best something-or-other of your generation. The fact that there are tons of originals & bests, well- why nitpick? Of course, the best way to imply depth without a reason behind it is to attach a label like metaphysical or surreal to any word. & how, pray tell, can intelligence be sly? It either is or is not. Questioning, okay- but sly? Thatís a code word for funny- & itís odd how someone whose aim is to be funny has his apologist go to great lengths to use that word. Of course, heís an ironist- not a comedian- damn you! But, how is a void ironic- even if the VOID!? As for the rest- standard off-the-rack blurbery.
 
Letís round off the accolades with this little bit from an online c.v.:

  He has received fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, The National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. He has also won the Bess Hokin Prize, the Frederick Bock Prize, the Oscar Blumenthal Prize, and the Levinson Prize --all awarded by Poetry magazine. In 1992 he was chosen by the New York Public Library to serve as "Literary Lion." For several years he has conducted summer poetry workshops at University College Galway. He is poet-in-residence at Burren College of Art in Ireland and professor of English at Lehman College (CUNY).

  Okay- we get it.  Heís 1 of them, but funny. Note the titular poem presents what seems to be a funny setting- even by the titleís juxtaposition of the activities? Recall, too, that the song mentioned is also the theme song to the old 3 Stooges films- an attempt at subliminalism. Excelsior:

I Chop Some Parsley While Listening to Art Blakey's Version of "Three Blind Mice"

And I start wondering how they came to be blind.
If it was congenital, they could be brothers and sister,
and I think of the poor mother
brooding over her sightless young triplets.

Or was it a common accident, all three caught
in a searing explosion, a firework perhaps?
If not,
if each came to his or her blindness separately,

how did they ever manage to find one another?
Would it not be difficult for a blind mouse
to locate even one fellow mouse with vision
let alone two other blind ones?

And how, in their tiny darkness,
could they possibly have run after a farmer's wife
or anyone else's wife for that matter?
Not to mention why.

Just so she could cut off their tails
with a carving knife, is the cynic's answer,
but the thought of them without eyes
and now without tails to trail through the moist grass

or slip around the corner of a baseboard
has the cynic who always lounges within me
up off his couch and at the window
trying to hid the rising softness that he feels.

By now I am on to dicing an onion
which might account for the wet stinging
in my own eyes, tough Freddie Hubbard's
mournful trumpet on "Blue Moon,"

which happens to be the next cut,
cannot be said to be making matters any better.  

  Well, we basically get a running commentary on the old nursery rhyme. As if by taking the rhymeís tale seriously we are sure to bust a gut. There is no real reason for this poem to be broken in to lines. I ask you- read it as a paragraph & it, at least, reads better:  

Meditation On Art Blakey's Version of "Three Blind Mice"  

  And I start wondering how they came to be blind. If it was congenital, they could be brothers and sister, and I think of the poor mother brooding over her sightless young triplets. Or was it a common accident, all three caught in a searing explosion, a firework perhaps? If not, if each came to his or her blindness separately, how did they ever manage to find one another? Would it not be difficult for a blind mouse to locate even one fellow mouse with vision let alone two other blind ones? And how, in their tiny darkness, could they possibly have run after a farmer's wife or anyone else's wife for that matter?
Not to mention why. Just so she could cut off their tails with a carving knife, is the cynic's answer, but the thought of them without eyes and now without tails to trail through the moist grass or slip around the corner of a baseboard has the cynic who always lounges within me up off his couch and at the window trying to hid the rising softness that he feels. By now I am on to dicing an onion which might account for the wet stinging in my own eyes, tough Freddie Hubbard's mournful trumpet on "Blue Moon," which happens to be the next cut, cannot be said to be making matters any better.

  Unfortunately, the proem is still dull. Nothing poetic exists at all. No music, no fun, not even bad poetic clichťs- just a Dead White Maleís dull masturbations on what is funny after years in The System. Frank OíHara need not stir in his grave. Letís take a 2nd shot at the poem- & keep it a poem.

Art Blakey's Version of "Three Blind Mice"  

By now I am on to dicing an onion
which might account for the wet stinging
in my own eyes, tough Freddie Hubbard's
mournful trumpet on "Blue Moon,"

which happens to be the next cut,
cannot be said to be making matters any better.
 

  The title now directly ties the poem to it- the action within can at least be seen as a metaphor for the titular song. Starting the poem in media res adds a little hop to the start. Still, the poem dies, its last line an unwitting prophecy. This poem is all too emblemic of BCís corpus. He has 1 or 2 passable poems- in form- I believe, but thatís hardly enough to warrant publication, much less PL status. But, hey, at least he gives other no talents something to aim for, right?  

Final Score: (1-100):  

Billy Collinsí I Chop Some Parsley While Listening to Art Blakey's Version of "Three Blind Mice": 45
TOPís Meditation On Art Blakey's Version of "Three Blind Mice": 50
TOPís Art Blakey's Version of "Three Blind Mice": 55

Return to TOP

Bookmark and Share