Sunday, July 21, 2013

Poetry Sunday: Fishing on the Susquehanna in July

Billy Collins is a very successful modern American poet. He has served as Poet Laureate of the country in the early part of the century, and he is lauded and praised by critics. Moreover, his books of poetry are moderately successful in sales, which is not something you can say about a lot of poets.

I've always enjoyed Collins' poetry. He writes with a quirky sense of humor which I appreciate. One such poem that reveals that sense of humor is this one.


Fishing on the Susquehanna in July

by Billy Collins

I have never been fishing on the Susquehanna
or on any river for that matter
to be perfectly honest.

Not in July or any month
have I had the pleasure--if it is a pleasure--
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

I am more likely to be found
in a quiet room like this one--
a painting of a woman on the wall,

a bowl of tangerines on the table--
trying to manufacture the sensation
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

There is little doubt
that others have been fishing
on the Susquehanna,

rowing upstream in a wooden boat,
sliding the oars under the water
then raising them to drip in the light.

But the nearest I have ever come to
fishing on the Susquehanna
was one afternoon in a museum in Philadelphia

when I balanced a little egg of time
in front of a painting
in which that river curled around a bend

under a blue cloud-ruffled sky,
dense trees along the banks,
and a fellow with a red bandanna

sitting in a small, green
flat-bottom boat
holding the thin whip of a pole.

That is something I am unlikely
ever to do, I remember
saying to myself and the person next to me.

Then I blinked and moved on
to other American scenes
of haystacks, water whitening over rocks,

even one of a brown hare
who seemed so wired with alertness
I imagined him springing right out of the frame.


I might say that I have experienced fishing on the Susquehanna in 
July in the same way as Billy Collins and I have enjoyed it every bit
as much as he did!

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