Lately I've been thinking about Billy Collins--about an interview I heard years ago on Fresh Air in which he described how he wrote a poem. He went on to say how he didn't care for all those poets that describe their life history. Who cares about your storys? he asked. (And now I want to find that interview to be able to quote what he said. )
It interests me because Collins is so popular, so engaging, and he talked about his recipe for audience appeal. And yes, there was kind of a recipe. As well as a formula for writing a poem. And yet, I realize how little I know about Collins himself.
By contrast, when I read someone like Denise Duhamel, who writes about her divorce, bulimia, alcoholism, family as well as about sexism and feminism, and-- you name it, I feel as if I know her, as if her poetry is almost like a conversation with her. And of course, she, too, is very popular.
THE BOTTOM by Denise Duhamel
I stopped drinking on my way down the hill to the liquor store when two guys pulled up and tried to drag me into their pickup. I crossed the street then ran in the opposite direction, puffing against the incline. The stranger thrust into reverse and, when I wouldn’t talk to him, threw a bag of McDonald’s trash at me, Stuck up bitch. I stopped drinking when I realized I was fighting for the vodka at the bottom of the hill more than I was fighting against the terrible things that could have happened to me inside the cab of that rusty Chevy. I stopped drinking before cell phones. I stopped drinking after Days of Wine and Roses. I stopped drinking even as I kept walking to El Prado Spirits and the guy behind the counter who recognized me asked if I was alright. I didn’t tell him what had happened because he might have called the police and then I would have had to wait for them to arrive to fill out a report, delaying my Smirnoff. I stopped drinking even before I had that last sip, as I ran back up the hill squeezing a bottle by its neck.