Billy Collins has been called the most popular living poet in America, and with good reason: he’s been more than a little successful as a poet, which in some literary quarters is rather unforgiveable.
Collins has been U.S. Poet Laureate twice (2001 and 2002) and New York Poet Laureate (2004); received fellowships for the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for Arts and the John Guggenheim Foundation; was named Poet of the Year by Poetry magazine in 1994; and received the Mark Twain Award for Humor in poetry, among many other honors and distinctions. He is Distinguished Professor of English at Lehman College in the Bronx. Collins was born in 1941 in New York City, received his B.A. degree from College of the Holy Cross and his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of California-Riverside. He has published 13 collections of poems and had served as editor for three anthologies.
This poem is from The Trouble with Poetry (2005).
After I had beaten my sword into a ploughshare,
I beat my ploughshare into a hoe,
then beat the hoe into a fork,
which I used to eat my dinner alone.
And when I had finished dinner,
I beat my fork into a toothpick,
which I twirled on my lips
then flicked over a low stone wall
as I walked along the city river
under the clouds and stars,
quite happy but for the thought
that I should have beaten that toothpick into a shilling
so I could buy a newspaper to read
after climbing the stairs to my room.