Friday, November 06, 2015

Forgetfulness, by Billy Collins (Or, I Almost Forgot It Was Poetry Friday)

My memory is a frightening thing these days. I used to have an excellent memory. When I was younger, when I was single, when I was newly in the workplace, newly married, my memory was formidable. There was so much less to keep track of in those days. Fewer people, fewer responsibilities, and no meal plans, only take-out.

The other day, in response to a friend's question about Halloween, I proceeded to talk about the evening as if he had no idea what'd gone on at our house. In fact, he had stood in my dining room and I had snapped pictures of his children -- Harry Potter, a ninja, Anna, and an owl -- before they went trick-or-treating.

My memory is a frightening thing these days. (Did I say that already?)

"Come read this poem by Billy Collins," I just now said to Atticus.

"Another one?" he asked.

"Did I already have you read a Billy Collins poem this morning?"

by Billy Collins

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

(Read the whole thing here, at


The Poetry Friday round up is at Write. Sketch. Repeat

(Photo courtesy of 


Carol Varsalona said...

This is a fun post, Karen. I can relate to this line. "Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye." Thanks for sharing the wisdom of Billy Collins.

Karen Edmisten said...

Thanks, Carol! Yes, Tom and I were trying to name the Muses this morning. I was hopeless.

bethany said...

Sad, but. alas & alack, all too true. (Alas & alack--did someone famous say that?; did I spell those right?...I used to teach spelling and grammar/comp, never misplaced modifiers or anything else. Not so today.) Thanks for helping me laugh at myself. The same topic handled by someone else might have made me sob at my pitiful plight...I love your wit, starting with the header asterisk! God bless you!...Don't forget to keep us warmly entertained with more posts, ok?

Karen Edmisten said...

Thanks, Bobbie!

Wait...did I say that already? :)

(And, alas and alack, I know what you mean about questioning one's spelling and grammar these days. I was an English major, for crying out loud. How do I forget this stuff??) :)

jama said...

My short term memory is shot! Glad I'm not the only one grappling with this issue. What was your name again? :)

Karen Edmisten said...

What does grappling mean again?

Doraine said...

Was I supposed to tell you something?

Linda B said...

I enjoyed the post, and also the comments, Karen, so funny. I think I'd love to retire to that little fishing village where they could supply the answers to all my questions! Thanks, Billy Collins rocks!

Karen Edmisten said...

Doraine, I think you were, but I can't remember. Did it have something to do with poetry? :)

Linda, if we can remember how to get there, I'll meet you in the fishing village for coffee!

mbhmaine said...

I thoroughly enjoyed your post and the Billy Collins poem. I can, much to my chagrin, relate only too well to forgetfulness and memory lapses. I used to be so sure that my recall was totally accurate. Now, I just say, "Well, I thought...but I'm probably wrong."

Tabatha said...

One year a teenager who won Poetry Out Loud performed this poem. He did a fantastic job. I wondered at the time how much he would know about forgetting, but in hindsight I think teens can actually be pretty darn forgetful!

Mary Lee said...

I'm just nodding and smiling and agreeing!!

Karen Edmisten said...

Molly, I love your current disclaimer, and Tabatha, I can attest to the forgetfulness of teens!
Thanks for joining us in our lament, Mary Lee!

Bridget Magee said...

So glad you remembered Billy, Karen. Unfortunately I suffer from forgetfulness more often than I like to admit. Ugh. =)

Karen Edmisten said...

Fortunately, Bridget, we can just forget about how often we forget. :)

Tamara said...

Solidarity, my friend.

Karen Edmisten said...

Indeed, Tamara! :)