A poem to read in the bath… ‘The Dead’

A popular American poet, Billy Collins [below] was praised by John Updike for writing “lovely poems…Limpid, gently and consistently startling, more serious than they seem, they describe all the worlds that are and were and some others besides.” He has been Poet Laureate twice: the US Poet Laureate from 2001-2003, and New York State Poet Laureate from 2004-2006. I like his idea here of the dead looking down on those they’ve left behind, keeping an eye on us.

Billy Collins

[photo: poetryfoundation.org]

Because of copyright restrictions I am unable to reproduce the poem in full, but please search it out in an anthology or at your local library.

‘The Dead’
The dead are always looking down on us, they say,
While we are putting on our shoes or making a sandwich,
They are looking down through the glass-bottom boats of heaven
As they row themselves slowly through eternity.

I am new to Billy Collins, and found this poem in a Bloodaxe anthology. I ordered his first collection, Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes and was immediately won over by the endorsement by Carol Ann Duffy on the cover: “Billy Collins is one of my favourite poets in the world”. That’ll do for me then.

Here’s a Ted video of Billy Collins talking about what dogs think, probably. The second poem is hilarious.

Why have I not discovered him sooner?

Billy Collins


‘Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes’ by Billy Collins [UK: Picador]

Read these other excerpts and find a new poet to love:-
‘Japanese Maple’ by Clive James
‘Digging’ by Seamus Heaney
‘Not Waving but Drowning’ by Stevie Smith

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A #poem to read in the bath: ‘The Dead’ by Billy Collins http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1Mk  via @SandraDanby



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