Billy Collins

Billy Collins: Poetry 180
a turning back to poetry

Random House, New York (2003)

My Favorite Poems from the Anthology

Edited by Peter Y. Chou

Poetry 180
Book Edition
Online Edition

Preface: As the U.S. Poet Laureate (2001-2003), Billy Collins initiated a poem-a-day program with the Library of Congress. Poetry 180 with its website is designed for high school students to read a poem each day of the 180 days of the school year. The first poem in the anthology is Collins' "Introduction to Poetry"— a wonderful way to get kids to appreciate poetry for its freshness instead of inducing fear in getting its meaning. In this respect, Collins has selected poems that are accessible at first glance so students will love reading them. Billy Collins autographed his Poetry 180 book which I checked out of the Stanford Library. As Collins has noted, "This collection is not an exact transcription of the poems on the Poetry 180 website. Putting the poems into book form made it possible to include longer poems as well as poems that came to my attention after the website was put up." I'm listing my favorite poems from the book version below with web links to both authors and their poems. (Note: The numbers refer to the book edition of Poetry 180.)

(1) Billy Collins: Introduction to Poetry

(6) Suzanne Cleary: Acting

(12) Mary Cornish: Numbers

(14) Miller Williams: Listen

(19) Rebecca Wee: Hoop Snake

(20) Charles Simic: Bestiary For The Fingers Of My Right Hand

(22) Tom Wayman: Did I Miss Anything

(25) Richard Jones: White Towels
        I have been studying the difference
        between solitude and loneliness.
        telling the story of my life
        to the clean white towels taken warm from the dryer.
        I carry them through the house
        as though they were my children
        asleep in my arms.

(26) Kenneth Koch: To You
        I love you as a sheriff searches for a walnut
        That will solve a murder case unsolved for years
        Because the murderer left it in the snow beside a window
        Through which he saw her head, connecting with
        Her shoulders by a neck, and laid a red
        Roof in her heart. For this we live a thousand years;
        For this we love, and we live because we love, we are not
        Inside a bottle, thank goodness! I love you as a
        Kid searches for a goat; I am crazier than shirttails
        In the wind, when you're near, a wind that blows from
        The big blue sea, so shiny so deep and so unlike us;
        I think I am bicycling across an Africa of green and white fields
        Always, to be near you, even in my heart
        When I'm awake, which swims, and also I believe that you
        Are trustworthy as the sidewalk which leads me to
        The place where I again think of you, a new
        Harmony of thoughts! I love you as the sunlight leads the prow
        Of a ship which sails
        From Hartford to Miami, and I love you
        Best at dawn, when even before I am awake the sun
        Receives me in the questions which you always pose.

(31) Li-Young Lee: Little Father

(35) William Matthews: A Poetry Reading at West Point

(39) Yves Bonnefoy: Passer-by, these are words...

(47) Charles Simic: The Partial Explanation

(49) C. S. Lewis: The Late Passenger (Punch, 1947)

(51) Carol Snow: Tour

(53) Don Paterson: Poetry

(56) Richard Jones: The Bell
        In the tower the bell
        is alone, like a man
        in his room,
        thinking and thinking.

        The bell is made of iron.
        It takes the weight
        of a man
        to make the bell move.

        Far below, the bell feels
        hands on a rope.
        It considers this.
        It turns its head.

        Miles away,
        a man in his room
        hears the clear sound,
        and lifts his head to listen.

(61) Aaron Fogel: The Printer's Error

(62) Nick Flynn: Cartoon Physics, part 1

(71) Lisel Mueller: Love Like Salt

(76) Lisa Jarnot: Ye White Antarctic Birds (57th street)

(77) Galway Kinnell: St. Francis and the Sow

(88) Jane Kenyon: Otherwise

(94) Jane Yolen: Fat Is Not a Fairy Tale (3rd stanza)
        I am thinking of a fairy tale
        that is not yet written,
        for a teller not yet born,
        for a listener not yet conceived,
        for a world not yet won,
        where everything round is good:
        the sun, wheels, cookies, and the princess.

(95) Frances Mayes: Sister Cat

(96) David Ignatow: The Bagel

(99) Luisa Villani: Watching the Mayan Women

(101) Mary Jo Salter: Video Blues

(104) Robert Bly: Gratitude to Old Teachers

(105) David Lehman: June 11

(106) David Clewell: Vegetarian Physics

(109) J. Allyn Rosser: Message: Bottle #32 (1st two of 7 stanzas)
        Ignore that last one I sent you.
        I'd really rather you didn't
        try to find me.

        Everything human is perfect here, round,
        worn smooth. These green bottles
        and the bones beside them.

(111) Charles Bukowski: No. 6

(118) Kate Knapp Johnson: The Meadow

(119) Christina Pugh: Rotary

(122) Sharon Bryan: Beyond Recall

(123) Dana Gioia: Alley Cat Love Song

(130) Philip Levine: The Poem of Chalk

(133) Stephen Dobyns: Loud Music

(134) Henry Taylor: Elevator Music

(139) Sharon Olds: The Quest (from The Gold Cell)
        The day my girl is lost for an hour,
        the day I think she is gone forever and then I find her,

(141) Li-Young Lee: Words For Worry

(145) Edward Hirsch: Fast Break

(148) David Ray: Doing Without

(150) Ron Padgett: Ladies and Gentlemen in Outer Space

(151) Mac Hammond: Thanksgiving

(161) Kaylin Haught: God Says Yes To Me

(165) Robley Wilson: I Wish In The City Of Your Heart

(179) Gerald Stern: 96 Vandam

(180) Heather McHugh: What He Thought

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© Peter Y. Chou,
P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039
email: (11-25-2003)