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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Predator - Billy Collins

It takes only a minute
to bury a wren.
Two trowels full of dirt
and he's in.

The cat at the threshold
sits longer in doubt
deciding whether
to stay in or go out.










Billy Collins is among my favorite living poems, and this short, humorous poem is a great example of why that is.  From the title, to the dead bird, to the cat, it's like a play told in three short acts.  And as a cat lover, I've been in the position where a cat has proudly brought me a dead animal.

Reading this, I can picture an aloof cat prowling a doorway, proud of what it's done, and trying to decide if it wants to check out the action.  There's not much deeper to this poem, but I don't think there needs to be.  It's a perfectly crystallized snapshot of a moment in time, and it makes me smile.  What more does a poem need to do?

2 comments:

  1. I too love Billy Collins! His poems are often subversive in a subtle way, have a different look at things I might gloss over, and make me think again.
    There is an interview (and article) from Minnesota Public Radio:
    https://www.mprnews.org/story/2016/10/10/books-billy-collins-rain-in-portugal
    in which he recites the poem Predator and the article highlights what the poem brings up for me - the not fair balance between embattled nature and our beloved pets. This is taken from the interview:

    “When asked to pick one to recite, he chose quickly: "Predator."
    It takes only a minute
    to bury a wren.
    Two trowels full of dirt
    and he's in.

    The cat at the threshold
    sits longer in doubt
    deciding whether
    to stay in or go out.

    The poem takes just seconds to read, but it opens a window on the realities of life and leaves a distinct sense of unease.”

    I know it does for me

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  2. Billy Collins - my favorite. I've got 7 of his collections. I often only read one or two poems at a time because they have such a pondering effect. Thank you!

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