Sunday, April 6, 2008

Storyteller Numero Uno

Ok, my favorite poet, Billy Collins, came to the Pantages Theater in Tacoma on April 4th. I have loved this poet since I first discovered his poetry in 2000, while an English major at Whitworth College in Spokane. My favorite poem of his involved a cello and young love. Other favorites include his poem "Another Reason Why I Don't Keep a Gun in the House" and "Victoria's Secret." I was excited, then, when I saw that he was coming to town, and immediately called my husband and told him that we had to go.

When we got to the Pantages, we discovered that we were there for a particularly special night. No, evidently it was not enough that the former national Poet Laureate was there, but Tacoma was establishing its own poet laureate post in an effort to promote poetry, and the 4th was the evening when they were promoting and honoring that poet. The honor went to a professor from the University of Puget Sound, whose name I have forgotten, but he opened the evening by reading two of his poems.

Then, it was time for Billy Collins. He entered the stage looking just as one would expect for a man who wrote poetry and taught college creative writing: black pants and sweater, eyes cast down, stage lights shining off the bald head fringed with tufts of hair. He entered, and without much elaboration, began reading his poetry. Occasionally, he introduced the poem by explaining how he was inspired: a quote here, a poorly written poem (by another poet, of course) there. He was humorous and engaging, joking with the audience, and while he was fully aware of the presence of the crowd, was completely occupied with reading his poetry. He read poetry spanning a wide array of topics: dogs, sex, poetry, the reader's role in poetry, other poets. He let the poems speak for themselves and the focus was on the poetry. It was fabulous.

He ended as inauspiciously as he began, and exited to go sign books and theater tickets. In all, he was very delightful, and my husband who had never heard of Billy Collins before left feeling enlightened, uplifted, and entertained. I couldn't stop talking about it all evening. It was great.

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