Sunday, September 21, 2008


Former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins in a 2001 interview with Elizabeth Farnsworth:

BILLY COLLINS: This is a poem called "Design." "I pour a coating of salt on the table and make a circle in it with my finger. This is a cycle of life, I say to no one; this is the wheel of fortune, the Arctic Circle. This is the ring of Kerry and the White Rose of Trulli. I say to the ghosts of my family, the dead fathers, the aunt who drowned, my unborn brothers and sisters, my unborn children. This is the sun with its glittering spokes and the bitter moon. This is the absolute circle of geometry I say to the crack in the wall, to the birds who cross the window, this is the wheel I just invented to roll through the rest of my life, I say, touching my finger to my tongue."

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: A circle of salt. This is a bleak poem.

BILLY COLLINS: Well, there's a little salty taste at the end of it. It's a meditation on a little geometric form. I think it might be an example of starting a poem with something simple. I always found-- as a child, at least-- if there was sugar or salt poured on the table it was irresistible to draw something in it, some little ideogram or a mark. And it just takes something very basic like that and scrutinizes it. I mean, I have a theory, really it's an analogy, that if time... Rather if matter is made of atoms and when you smash an atom it releases all this energy, that time is made of moments and when you scrutinize a moment in a poem, it also can release a kind of energy. And that poem is trying to focus on something and then by scrutinizing it taking its layers off and seeing what's there.