I'm very reader-conscious and, I hope, reader friendly and sometimes when I have very little to say which is really the best time to write for me...When I was a young poet I had lots of stuff to say and then I found out that these things had been said much better, and then I realised I had nothing to say and my poetry improved remarkably. So in some of these conditions I like to write a poem that is about the reader, about you, presumably, and just about our relationship, more or less. So I think the poem is a sort of lasso to catch the reader's attention. So I'll start with this poem; it's just called 'You, Reader'.
I wonder how you are going to feel
when you find out
that I wrote this instead of you,
that it was I who got up early
to sit in the kitchen
and mention with a pen
the rain-soaked windows,
the ivy wallpaper,
and the goldfish circling in its bowl.
Go ahead and turn aside,
bite your lip and tear out the page,
but, listen – it was just a matter of time
before one of us happened
to notice the unlit candles
and the clock humming on the wall.
Plus, nothing happened that morning –
a song on the radio,
a car whistling along the road outside –
and I was only thinking
about the shakers of salt and pepper
that were standing side by side on a place mat.
I wondered if they had become friends
after all these years
or if they were still strangers to one another
like you and I
who manage to be unknown and known
to each other at the same time –
me at this table with a bowl of pears,
you leaning in a doorway somewhere
near some blue hydrangeas, reading this.
From The Trouble with Poetry (Random House, 2005), © Billy Collins 2005 used by permission of the author and the publisher; Recording from Billy Collins Live: A Performance at the Peter Norton Symphony Space (Random House, USA, 2005).