Today, in honor of Billy Collins' 76th birthday this month, we have an all-Billy episode of Poetry Friday. Our host, Heidi, suggests that "all who care to will post a favorite Billy Collins poem (or Billy-inspired original)." I've got one of each - one of his and one of mine - for you today.
I've been thinking a lot about photography lately, since I'm doing a year-long photo-a-day project. For the last couple of years, I've also done a photo-a-day project during Lent, so this year during Lent (which started on Wednesday), I'm posting two photos each day on Facebook, responding to prompts I got here as well as the regular ones I got here. I'm very much an amateur photographer; my husband bought me a nice camera that is able to do way more than I know how to do, but I'm experimenting and learning, and having all kinds of thoughts about connections between photography and writing, photography and being fully present in the moment, and photography and love. Maybe I'll develop some of these thoughts further in writing in the future.
Meanwhile, I picked the Billy Collins poem "Strange Lands" to share today. This poem is from Collins' 1988 collection The Apple that Astonished Paris. In the poem, people back from a trip pass out their vacation photos, "like little mirrors," to friends after dinner. Isn't that quaint and old-fashioned? Even though the technology is dated, though, I like what the poem has to say about taking pictures and why we share them with others: "to make them believe we really found / some sweet elsewhere, away from here."
Here's the poem:
by Billy Collins
The photographs of the summer trip are spread
across the table now like little mirrors
reflecting our place in European history.
They are the booty of travel, bordered and colorful,
split seconds that we pass to friends after dinner
one by one to make them believe we really found
some sweet elsewhere, away from here.
There we are, the familiar gazing out of the foreign,
stopped in front of a carved Cistercian door,
or leaning obliquely against a kiosk;
frozen behind a blue and white Della Robbia,
or parked at a café table strewn with phrasebooks,
obscured there in the underexposed shadow of an awning.
Here's the rest, including the travelers walking on after taking a photo, "unfocused, unphotographed...two blurs," as though they really only fully exist when they are documenting their travels.
I wish Billy Collins would update this poem, but in the meantime, I tried my hand at it. I sound a bit more negative and cynical about social media than I really am; I enjoy connecting with people that way, but it is, let's face it, a pale substitute for being with our friends in person.
Strange Lands on Social Media
by Ruth, from thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com
The photographs of the trip are posted,
like little digital gifts,
ready for friends all over to like,
be startled or saddened or angered by,
or even love.
Pics, or it didn’t happen.
See what a good time we’re having?
That’s us, in the pictures,
smiling, or posing ironically duck-faced.
That’s what we ate, what we drank,
artfully arranged and gleaming,
the walks we took.
Those are the sights we saw,
and you can see them now, too.
We can’t share the smells or tastes or textures with you - yet -
But you can experience some of the sounds in this short video.
Hear those exotic birds? Those foreign-sounding voices?
(Feel free to share.)
Do you have any comments for us?
If so, we’d like to read them.
We wish you were here,
next to us,
laughing and swapping stories,
spilling your drinks in an unpicturesque manner,
instead of far away,
scrolling through our photos
on your phone.
Here's today's roundup.
5 hours ago