CRITIQUING BILLY COLLINS

So, I just got back from USC this past weekend after my month at the USC/LARB publishing workshop, which was an absolutely amazing experience. The people at the Los Angeles Review of Books are all extremely outgoing and kind. They clearly care about the value that every publisher brings to the table—we heard from smaller presses like Angel City Press and Tia Chucha, as well as massive corporations like Netflix and Amazon, and all the magazines, authors, and so on in between.

It was this constant dedication to diversity that made me wish to discuss the work of Billy Collins today briefly. Specifically, I wanted to talk about the poems in The Rain in Portugal, since I just finished it and it is fresh in my mind still. I should preface this with A) that I have not read all his work—in fact this is the only collection of his work that I have read, so take what I say with a grain of salt and B) that I really enjoyed his work. Like it was some of the most inspiring, thought provoking poetry I have ever read.

With that in mind, I wanted to talk about the issue I have with the collection. The issue I have found is that, in many cases, Collins provides only a male-centeric narrative to his poems. Under the Stars, Cosmology, and A Day in May (also titled “May Day”) I think illustrate this issue the best. Under the Stars portrays a person, who is most likely a man, pissing under the stars. While the overall message is to find tranquility in the most unusual of areas, the emphasis on fraternity creates a sort of in-group versus out-group mentality, where the reader may feel alienated if they lack a penis.

Similarly, Cosmology paints the image of the world resting on a variety of unusual pictures (the infinite backs of turtles, for example). Collins decides that placing the world on the back of Keith Richards, holding a bottle of Jack Daniels and smoking a Marlboro cigarettes is the ideal place to rest the world. Of course, this is meant to create humor, but the decision continues to uplift the male narratives. Which isn’t necessarily bad, until Collins begins to represent women to the contrary.

In Collins work, women often become objects. A poem is personified as a woman, for example. And truthfully, it is extremely romantic and lovely to read. But it also can be one-dimensional. One example of this is in A Day in May, in which Collins highlights a girl telling him “have a nice day.” In his brief commentary afterwards, he mentions this statement as being “an irritant” because the girl could not possibly know how good the day was already. Yet to describe her as an irritant seems unfair. She was simple a cashier doing her job, and being polite about it at that. This representation presents women as “lesser” people. Which I think is on the border of cruel.

Anyways, that’s just my opinion. I still adore his poetry—I just ordered a couple more of his collections. But I still think that we can do better—or at least should be aware of the problems that exist even at the highest branches of poetic form. What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

 

Hello there!

 

Did you like this discussion? Let me know by leaving a like and a comment!

Want to keep up-to-date on all my posts? Follow my blog!

Want to see more of my work? Check out my blog’s site!

 

Follow me on social media! 🙂

Instagram: @cassadyblog

Twitter: @cassady_orha

Facebook: @cassadyorha

BOREAS (AND OTHER HAIKUS)

Aeolus

When he bagged the winds

the whole world grew silent

and it was quite dull.

 

Eurus

The wet summer wind

arriving here this early

is unexpected.

 

Boreas

The shutters slam closed

while the low howl of winter

demands he come in.

 

Notus

Zucchinis shriveled

as the bountiful gardens

became a desert.

 

Zephyrus

He greeted their cries

with the tender compassion

of a humble man.

——

 

Hello there!

 

Did you like these poems? Let me know by leaving a like and a comment!

Want to keep up-to-date on all my posts? Follow my blog!

Want to see more of my work? Check out my blog’s site!

Want to read more of my stuff, but don’t go on WordPress often? Check out my Facebook page!

There is also an Instagram for my blog! Follow me there for visual highlights of my writing!

MY BRAND NEW TWITTER: @cassady_orha

TALKIN’ ‘BOUT POETRY

So I made a friend recently (whoa! so hard to imagine, right?) in my time at USC, which isn’t to say that I know them super well, but I really wanted to talk about an interesting conversation we had the other day. They shared with me some of their poetry (like ten poems), and I got to read through it. it was super cool (sorry I can’t show you all, but it’s not mine to reveal).

But I did want to recount the awesome parts. Which aren’t really…well, aren’t really the actual words that matter. I mean, obviously the words of a poem matter, they’re what make a poem poetry…but that isn’t what was important to what we were talking about—it was the discussion. Which is not only where a poem sits in the history of poetry, but also how it affects and influences the reader. For example, I’ll use an aspect of my poem yesterday (because what kind of self-centered author would I be if I didn’t refer to my own work?):

 

“as I hang there suspended, swinging

in the breeze on a nice, thick rope

 

like back in Florida, above the water,

while my father roared with laughter”

 

So those lines, are the last two and first two lines of two different stanzas, and I like to think that they create a nice contrast in perspective. The first two lines, from the end of the first stanza, create the image of a body swinging from a rope…which, lets be honest, sounds like a suicide or a hanging. The break makes the reader pause, and allows (ideally) the brain to process it. Then, the latter two lines contrast the darkness of those lines with the nostalgic image of falling into the water, with a father laughing in the background. This creates a dialogue in the readers head, which I think everyone reacts to differently. Is the narrator actually suicidal, and reflecting how their life went? Are they happy, and just being cynical? Are we just misreading them? Hard to say.

Anywho, I just wanted to pause some questions, because I think poetry reading is one of the most interesting things there is. Let me know your thoughts!

——

 

Hello there!

 

Did you enjoy this discussion? Let me know by leaving a like and a comment!

Want to keep up-to-date on all my posts? Follow my blog!

Want to see more of my work? Check out my blog’s site!

Want to read more of my stuff, but don’t go on WordPress often? Check out my Facebook page!

There’s also an Instagram for my blog! Follow me there for visual highlights of my writing!

MY BRAND NEW TWITTER: @cassady_orha

TAKING A SAD SONG

How do you make it better?

Paul told me not to make it bad,

But sitting here in the dark,

The hall light like a luminous spirit

Hanging over me, I can’t seem

To wash the tears from my eyes.

 

The empty house, filled with

Lost-hopes, hallow voices, and empty promises

Drown the once buoyant chants of the

Frost on Sunday rerun I found on YouTube.

 

Maybe from the steps of superstardom

The depths of despair

Look like a small puddle.

 

But the staircase to Paradiso

Passes through the Inferno,

And I think I might have gotten lost

In Purgatorio

 

Just like mama and papa did.

Why else could such good souls

Not make it into heaven?

——

 

Hello there!

 

Did you like this poems? Let me know by leaving a like and a comment!

Want to keep up-to-date on all my posts? Follow my blog!

Want to see more of my work? Check out my blog’s site!

Want to read more of my stuff, but don’t go on WordPress often? Check out my Facebook page!

There is also an Instagram for my blog! Follow me there for visual highlights of my writing!

MY BRAND NEW TWITTER: @cassady_orha

LOVE POEM #47 – BLUE LOVE

I’ve spent all this time being midnight blue,

That I have lost my time to be with you.

You, the girl painted American red—

You’re the girl I can’t get out of my head.

 

You, the girl I sat next to for a year.

You, the girl whose smile could commandeer

Every man’s heart from here to Ireland.

Oh, the things I would give to hold your hand.

 

Do you remember that Slim Shady verse?

You’d rap it and be completely immersed,

And I’d almost forget that you showed me

The whole realm of music that is country.

 

You, the girl who wore those star-and-stripe boots

(Sorry if I ever checked your caboose).

You, the girl who loves the Anaheim Ducks,

You, the girl I know really love to…fish.

 

Oh, I know that you do it all the time

But that story is for another rhyme.

Tonight, I’ll lament ‘bout what I’m missing—

‘Bout how I wish ‘twas you I was kissing.

You, the girl with hair colored like a dove.

You, the one that cursed me with this blue love.

——

 

Hello there!

 

Did you like this poems? Let me know by leaving a like and a comment!

Want to keep up-to-date on all my posts? Follow my blog!

Want to see more of my work? Check out my blog’s site!

Want to read more of my stuff, but don’t go on WordPress often? Check out my Facebook page!

There is also an Instagram for my blog! Follow me there for visual highlights of my writing!

MY BRAND NEW TWITTER: @cassady_orha

MY NAME

People ask me who I am,

And I happily reply “Cassady!”

Now, they don’t know what that really means.

Because people think of Cassady

As being a girls name.

Or rather, the gross misspelling of

“Cassidy,” the popular girl’s name.

 

A few of the older ones

Might think I’m a Dead Head spawn,

And others might say

That I drove the Further

Like a bat out of hell

In another life.

 

Still more might think of me,

Riding along next to Sundance

Talking big about Bolivia.

I think I like that one best—

And they’ll tell you that thinking,

That’s what I’m good at.

 

But sometimes I wish that “Cassady”

Wasn’t a name that had to be

Held up to all this scrutiny,

And could be someone that just was me.

 

——

 

Hello there!

 

Did you like this poems? Let me know by leaving a like and a comment!

Want to keep up-to-date on all my posts? Follow my blog!

Want to see more of my work? Check out my blog’s site!

Want to read more of my stuff, but don’t go on WordPress often? Check out my Facebook page!

There is also an Instagram for my blog! Follow me there for visual highlights of my writing!

MY BRAND NEW TWITTER: @cassady_orha

COMMERCIAL GIRL (AND OTHER HAIKUS)

By the Fountain

Palm trees in the spring

And clear blue summer fountains.

Seagull’s paradise.

 

Devoured

Buzzing mosquitoes

Evade flailing hands; they are

Eating me alive.

 

Overheating

Covered in hot sweat;

Wishing I could fall asleep.

This night seems endless

 

Heart Broken

Every other step

Feels like a thousand tons

When I’m without you.

 

Commercial Girl

One thousand eyes stared

As I walked you home tonight.

No wonder you asked.

——

 

Hello there!

 

Did you like these poems? Let me know by leaving a like and a comment!

Want to keep up-to-date on all my posts? Follow my blog!

Want to see more of my work? Check out my blog’s site!

Want to read more of my stuff, but don’t go on WordPress often? Check out my Facebook page!

There is also an Instagram for my blog! Follow me there for visual highlights of my writing!

MY BRAND NEW TWITTER: @cassady_orha

TOO MUCH TO DRINK

Maybe I shouldn’t have had that third drink,

‘Cause words are pourin’ out faster than I can think.

The books, the movie, and the love affair;

The times, the weather, and the hooker’s stare.

Suddenly I’ve told them my life story

(Save for the parts that were a bit gory).

I’m breathing heavy and my cheeks are hot;

I’m feeling sweaty and my nose has snot,

And they all look at me with masked disgust

Like I was a braggart consumed by lust—

Like I’d raped and pillaged and tortured men;

And that I could never be one of them.

And maybe not—they are sipping good wine,

While my beer comes from somewhere much less fine.

 

But I would prefer not to be defined

By this cutthroat man and his fiendish kind.

——

 

Hello there!

 

Did you like this poem? Let me know by leaving a like and a comment!

Want to keep up-to-date on all my posts? Follow my blog!

Want to see more of my work? Check out my blog’s site!

Want to read more of my stuff, but don’t go on WordPress often? Check out my Facebook page! @cassadyorha

There is also an Instagram for my blog! Follow me there for visual highlights of my writing! @cassadyblog

THE IN BETWEEN

As I sit and look at the people from my own restaurant seat booth, I see myself as a part of the world, and yet completely apart from the world. I’m delighted by the smiling faces of the family at a table not ten paces away from me. They have aligned themselves in the most stereotypical of ways—the women on the left, and the men on the right. Yet they couldn’t be happier. The family members poured in one by one, and the whole room was filled with cries of “Hey!” and “So good to see you!” and they have yet to stop laughing. It is something quite beautiful—so few people live their lives to enjoy each other. So many live to simply enjoy themselves.

Take the couple across from me for example. I had expected an older couple to enjoy each other’s company more than my technological youth, but they are instead sitting, staring at their phone screens. They are leaned over, scarfing down their food like ravenous wolves. Their phones in hand—I don’t think they have spoken a word since they got here. They even sat on the same side of the booth. Perhaps they simply appreciate each other’s closeness. Perhaps at that age, there are simply no more words to say—but I would certainly hope not.

And then there is me. I sit in the in between of life. There is a void of silence that lingers, impenetrable, for feet around me at all time. Even the waitress, whose brimming smile roused the old couple to life for a moment, quieted as she took my order. My life has become all business, and they can feel it. I had been working diligently at the spreadsheets I had brought with me. It didn’t even cross my mind to ask someone to breakfast with me. I wouldn’t even know where to start. I am an invisible man—not the Ralph Ellison kind, but invisible nonetheless. For all the words I say, the people I meet, and the lives I change, I am forgotten.

That is, to everyone but her. You remember her, don’t you? We don’t say her name anymore, because she is gone now, but for a short while we spent all our time together. We went off, sailing away into the distance, with champagne, sunlight, and smiles. You know the one, don’t you? We have all met that person, who changed us. Who made the world feel whole and the frigid winters a little less frozen.

But she is gone now, and I sit in the in between. Between this cold, awful world, and whatever comes next. There is too much to lose in reality, yet too little to cling to for me to stay grounded. I am a mind without a body—moving through the world with complete awareness of self, yet no desire. I’m told desire stems from the gut. Perhaps that is why the office has come to call me gutless. It doesn’t matter. They will be long dead, and I’ll still be here: watching, listening, and waiting for her return.

——

 

Hello there!

 

Did you like this story? Let me know by leaving a like and a comment!

Want to keep up-to-date on all my posts? Follow my blog!

Want to see more of my work? Check out my blog’s site!

Want to read more of my stuff, but don’t go on WordPress often? Check out my Facebook page!

CLICHE POST-GRAD FAMILY THANK YOU NOTE

Graduation just passed, and this weekend I had a million things to talk about. Planning. Hard work. Hating the morning. Good food. Family. Stress. Over eating. And so on…yet somehow today my mind has pulled a blank. Probably because I was up until nearly 3:00 am giving life (relationship) advice to a good friend of mine, and I am now understandably sleepy. But I’m sure as I am typing, something will come to me.

Speak of the devil, and you will be rewarded in kind. Let’s talk about family. Family is a great and terrible thing. Somehow they are always there for you, yet also removed from your being (at least, this is true for me). Don’t get me wrong—I love my family. In fact, I think deep down, I would fall into the “family before country” group. Though, the caveat to this would be that this doesn’t apply to ALL members of my family. I don’t know my second cousin once removed who lives in wherever of wherever. I honestly don’t think I would jeopardize my life success over them. My mother, brother, sister, father, aunt, and/or immediate cousins though? Yeah probably. Actually not probably—definitely. Those are the people who keep up with and care about me, and I care about them.

Which is like…duh, Cassady. Of course you would care about your mother. Who doesn’t? I mean maybe it is a bit obvious, but at the same time I am not as sold. Perhaps it is due to the stresses of my life, which have been in many ways caused by certain family members, and I have seen people that I once would have placed on a pedestal fall into the depths of contempt. I also have family members that aren’t technically related to me by blood, yet they mean more to me than the biological grandparents on my mother’s side that I never knew. I have family whose image and ideology has influenced me long after their death. In part, I attribute the success of my life to their life lessons.

But again, like…duh Cassady. Of course you are shaped by your family and their teachings. You ranted about this when you talked about religious upbringings. Eh. Yeah. I suppose so. But what exactly is life without a little thankfulness. I don’t currently believe in an afterlife, which is perhaps my nihilism seeping through. But I do believe in life after death. I’ll explain quickly, since this post is getting a bit longer than I’d like. After we die, I don’t see much reason for us to actually have much going on after. If you disagree, that’s fine. It just doesn’t make much sense to me in the traditional sense, since if we have life after death, why shouldn’t the cat, or the dog, or the dolphin. What makes us so special? Because we claimed it? That sounds like vanity.

Regardless though, we can live after death through things. Images are a common one, but those don’t really impart the idea of life. Through our family we can live on, in the sense that our ideas will continue to flourish and develop. Thoughts we once had will find their way into the minds of brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, and so on. Heirlooms seem to carry a similar quality, which is what makes them so…irreplaceable. You know what I mean? Let me know what you think! Is your family that important to you?

——

 

Hello there!

 

Did you enjoy this discussion? Let me know by leaving a like and a comment!

Want to keep up-to-date on all my posts? Follow my blog!

Want to see more of my work? Check out my blog’s site!

Want to read more of my stuff, but don’t go on WordPress often? Check out my Facebook page!

There’s also an Instagram for my blog! Follow me there for visual highlights of my writing!