No Time: Seeing Life Through the Lens of Death

No Time: Seeing Life Through the Lens of Death

No Time

In a rush this weekday morning,
I tap the horn as I speed past the cemetery
where my parents are buried
side by side under a smooth slab of granite.

Then, all day long, I think of him rising up
to give me that look
of knowing disapproval
while my mother calmly tells him to lie back down.

Billy Collins

U. S. Poet Laureate, 2001-2003

Seeing Life Through the Lens of Death

During an interview focusing upon our perceptions of the dead, Collins touched upon his portrayal of death in the poem No Time:

“The underlying theme of Western poetry is mortality. The theme of carpe diem asks us to seize the day because we have only a limited number of them. To see life through the lens of death is to approach the condition of gratitude for the gift, or simply the fact, of our existence. And as Wallace Stevens said, Death is the mother of beauty. Only the perishable can be beautiful, which is why we are unmoved by artificial flowers….

We visit graves because they give the illusion that the person is somewhere, in some place. But like a mandala, the gravestoneitself is a focusing device. The treatment of the dead as if they were still alive is ancient. The Egyptians would entomb you with your favorite food, flowers, even pets (poor dears). In that way, maybe we are all in some form of hopeful denial.”

No Time: Seeing Life Through the Lens of Death

Animation by: Jeff Scher

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Hunger: Cravings of the Weary Forsaken

Music: Mavis Staples/Hard Times

Hunger: Cravings of the Weary Forsaken

The filmmaker, Samuel Christopher, is actually a duo consisting of Chris Turner and Sam Tootal. Their short film examines poet Billy Collins’ enigmatic poem “Hunger” by posting the poem’s lines up against a silent urban landscape like hyper-literary graffiti. Christopher interprets Collins’ textual riddle with his own visual rendering of the poem, a forsaken and depopulated cityscape’s lonely craving. In particular, the “fox” that was lugged over your shoulder is anything that you thought was “in the bag”, or “success.” When it escapes, you might mistakenly think you’re stronger, instead of realizing that you’ve lost whatever it was that you thought was safe and secure. Your “cottage” in a forest that “covers the world” refers to the fact that no matter how great your house, it is a very lonely place on a very big planet, and no matter in what esteem you may hold it, or yourself, ultimately you’re very insignificant. In the end, no one is much different from the people who are poor or are homeless.

Hunger

The fox you lug over your shoulder
in a dark sack
has cut a hole with a knife
and escaped.
The sudden lightness makes you think
you are stronger
as you walk back to your small cottage
through a forest that covers the world.

Billy Collins

Hunger: Cravings of the Weary Forsaken

Short Film by Samuel Christopher

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Today: If Ever There Were a Day So Perfect

Today: If Ever There Were a Day So Perfect

Today

If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary’s cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking

a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,

releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting

into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.

Billy Collins

Today: If Ever There Were a Day So Perfect

Animation by Little Fluffy Clouds

Andrew Sullivan on tonight’s second presidential debate: “This has not just been an Obama victory. It has been a wipe-out. It has been about as big a wipe-out as I can remember in a presidential debate.”

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