Welcome to Ronkville. Established: 2007 Population: 1 (though we get a lot of visitors passing through) Click the timestamp to go to the full post or source. And read The Ronkville Morning Bugle to keep up on what news is buzzing around our little hamlet today.
in a world of one color
the sound of wind.
Feeling a bit nostalgic tonight. You can criticize Facebook for many things, but birthday wishes from former students via Facebook actually have an impact on me.
I was reminded of “Schoolsville” by Billy Collins. I do feel like the mayor sometimes (of Ronksville and Schoolsville) where the population does age but never really graduates. I know my earliest students are only 7 years younger than me, but when they were 15 and I was 22, we were a world apart. Now, not so much.
Glancing over my shoulder at the past, I realize the number of students I have taught is enough to populate a small town.
I can see it nestled in a paper landscape, chalk dust flurrying down in winter, nights dark as a blackboard.
The population ages but never graduates. On hot afternoons they sweat the final in the park and when it’s cold they shiver around stoves reading disorganized essays out loud. A bell rings on the hour and everybody zigzags into the streets with their books.
I forgot all their last names first and their first names last in alphabetical order. But the boy who always had his hand up is an alderman and owns the haberdashery. The girl who signed her papers in lipstick leans against the drugstore, smoking, brushing her hair like a machine.
Their grades are sewn into their clothes like references to Hawthorne. The A’s stroll along with other A’s. The D’s honk whenever they pass another D.
All the creative-writing students recline on the courthouse lawn and play the lute. Wherever they go, they form a big circle.
Needless to say, I am the mayor. I live in the white colonial at Maple and Main. I rarely leave the house. The car deflates in the driveway. Vines twirl around the porch swing.
Once in a while a student knocks on the door with a term paper fifteen years late or a question about Yeats or double-spacing. And sometimes one will appear in a windowpane to watch me lecturing the wallpaper, quizzing the chandelier, reprimanding the air.
When a student tells you they “can’t learn a poem by heart,” you can show them this 3-year-old reciting “Litany” by Billy Collins.
Happy National Poetry Month!
You are the bread and the knife, The crystal goblet and the wine… -Jacques Crickillon
You are the bread and the knife, the crystal goblet and the wine. You are the dew on the morning grass and the burning wheel of the sun. You are the white apron of the baker, and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.
However, you are not the wind in the orchard, the plums on the counter, or the house of cards. And you are certainly not the pine-scented air. There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.
It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge, maybe even the pigeon on the general’s head, but you are not even close to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.
And a quick look in the mirror will show that you are neither the boots in the corner nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.
It might interest you to know, speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world, that I am the sound of rain on the roof.
I also happen to be the shooting star, the evening paper blowing down an alley and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.
I am also the moon in the trees and the blind woman’s tea cup. But don’t worry, I’m not the bread and the knife. You are still the bread and the knife. You will always be the bread and the knife, not to mention the crystal goblet and—somehow—the wine.
In his poem “The Trouble With Poetry”, Billy Collins points out several things that trouble him about poetry. Collins is usually not totally serious and always somewhat serious about things.
The trouble with poetry, I realized as I walked along a beach one night — cold Florida sand under my bare feet, a show of stars in the sky —
the trouble with poetry is that it encourages the writing of more poetry, more guppies crowding the fish tank, more baby rabbits hopping out of their mothers into the dewy grass.
And how will it ever end? unless the day finally arrives when we have compared everything in the world to everything else in the world,
but we keep on writing the poems. When will it end? Maybe not until
…there is nothing left to do but quietly close our notebooks and sit with our hands folded on our desks.
Like good little students.
And later in the poem, Billy repays with a poetic nod a debt that goes back to high school for an image (perhaps several images) he stole from Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
And along with that, the longing to steal, to break into the poems of others with a flashlight and a ski mask.
And what an unmerry band of thieves we are, cut-purses, common shoplifters, I thought to myself as a cold wave swirled around my feet and the lighthouse moved its megaphone over the sea, which is an image I stole directly from Lawrence Ferlinghetti — to be perfectly honest for a moment —
It’s appropriate that Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac will have Billy Collins as its voice starting in June.
Billy - who has been featured on the Almanac many times and been on Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion program - will be filling in for Garrisonfor several months (maybe longer).
So, you will hear Billy reading the almanac and poem each day on The Writer’s Almanac on NPR. Billy will selecting the poems, so if you get the almanac poems in the daily email version of the Almanac, that’s Billy’s choice.
The birds are in their trees, the toast is in the toaster, and the poets are at their windows.
They are at their windows in every section of the tangerine of earth- the Chinese poets looking up at the moon, the American poets gazing out at the pink and blue ribbons of sunrise.
The clerks are at their desks, the miners are down in their mines, and the poets are looking out their windows maybe with a cigarette, a cup of tea, and maybe a flannel shirt or bathrobe is involved.
The proofreaders are playing the ping-pong game of proofreading, glancing back and forth from page to page, the chefs are dicing celery and potatoes, and the poets are at their windows because it is their job for which they are paid nothing every Friday afternoon.
Which window it hardly seems to matter though many have a favorite, for there is always something to see- a bird grasping a thin branch, the headlights of a taxi rounding a corner, those two boys in wool caps angling across the street.
The fishermen bob in their boats, the linemen climb their round poles, the barbers wait by their mirrors and chairs, and the poets continue to stare at the cracked birdbath or a limb knocked down by the wind.
By now, it should go without saying that what the oven is to the baker and the berry-stained blouse to the dry cleaner, so the window is to the poet.
Just think- before the invention of the window, the poets would have had to put on a jacket and a winter hat to go outside or remain indoors with only a wall to stare at.
And when I say a wall, I do not mean a wall with striped wallpaper and a sketch of a cow in a frame.
I mean a cold wall of fieldstones, the wall of the medieval sonnet, the original woman’s heart of stone, the stone caught in the throat of her poet-lover.
Poetry Pairing matches Billy Collins’s “Winter Syntax” with an audio slideshow by Keith Mulvihill in which a reporter, photographer and mountaineer together navigate the snowy Tuckerman Ravine Trail along the Presidential Range in New Hampshire.