Thursday Book Feature: The Poetry of Billy Collins

In celebration of National Poetry Month, I’m reviewing two collections by one of my favorite poets, Billy Collins. . Some of you may remember that I reviewed The Rain in Portugal last year, but I’ve since read it again, and it’s worth a second look.

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Aimless Love: A Selection of Poems
Copyright 2012.

The poems in this collection provide slice-of-life and often humorous reflections on such topics as nature, religion, and other poets. In “The Revenant,” a deceased dog talks to his owner from the grave. In “The Lanyard,” the author describes how he made a lanyard for his mother, who did a lot more for him. In “Suggestion Box,” he considers writing a poem about all the people who give him poem ideas. The title poem is about unconditional love. Some poems here are previously published while others are new.

If you’re a poet, Billy Collins might inspire you. After reading “The Revenant,” I wrote a poem in which one of our cats speaks to my father from her grave. “Istanbul,” in which the poet shares his experience with a Turkish bath, inspired me to write about a similar experience I had in a California spa run by Koreans. Even if you’re not a fan of poetry, you might enjoy Billy Collins’ work, since most of it reads more like prose, although it looks like poetry on the page.

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The Rain in Portugal: Poems
Copyright 2016.

In the author’s usual humorous style, poems in this collection reflect on jazz, writing poetry, and other subjects. In “Lucky Cat,” Collins suggests betting with other humans on the actions of felines. In “Only Child,” he longs for a sister to help care for his aging parents. In “The Bard in Flight,” he imagines what Shakespeare would do on an airplane. The collection’s title comes from the poem “On Rhyme,” in which he reflects on such common sayings as “The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain.”

I heard about this latest collection when he appeared on A Prairie Home Companion. . Of course he read a few of his poems, and I was hooked. Needless to say, I downloaded the book and spent a delightful evening reading the poems aloud to myself.

According to an author’s note at the beginning, the electronic version of this book is designed so that formatting isn’t affected when the font size of the type is changed. Words at the ends of lines that are moved down when text is enlarged are indented to indicate they’re part of the same line. This didn’t make any difference to me, since I read the book in Braille, but I’m glad those with low vision can enjoy the poems the way they were written. These poems are meant to be recited, preferably by
Billy Collins, but I enjoyed reading them aloud.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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My Downtown Memories

Thanks to Mike Stanton’s post in Writing Wranglers and Warriors for inspiring this. When I was growing up in the 1960’s, my family was living in Tucson, Arizona, and a trip downtown was exciting because we had to drive through a large tunnel in order to get there. Dad or Mother kept honking the horn, as we drove through, and I loved the way the sound reverberated.

Once downtown, I enjoyed shopping in department stores with escalators and elevators. During the Christmas season, visiting Santa Claus was the highlight of any shopping trip. We often ate at a cafeteria, where my favorite meal was turkey with dressing and sweet potatoes. On my eleventh birthday, my parents took me and my younger brother to dinner at an Italian restaurant, where we ate outside on a patio.

The Tucson Community Center opened downtown while we were still living there, and Dad and I heard such performers as The Carpenters and Sonny and Cher. This facility also had a music hall where we heard performances of such works as Benjamin Britton’s A Celebration of Carols and Karl Orf’s Carmina Burana. We even heard a production of Rosini’s The Barber of Seville.

After we moved to Sheridan, Wyoming, in 1973, going downtown wasn’t nearly as exciting. The only tunnels were underpasses on the freeway. None of the department stores had escalators. One had an elevator, but it was old and creaky and had to be run by a human operator. However, there was a café where I enjoyed drinking milk shakes after school.

Now, that café has since been replaced by another that doesn’t serve milk shakes. The department store with the elevator is gone, as are other stores that were there during my childhood. I still enjoy walking downtown from my home in favorable weather to do banking and other errands.

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Now, in celebration of National Poetry Month, I’ll conclude with a poem I wrote that was inspired by a childhood memory of downtown Sheridan at night. This is an acrostic in which the first letter of each line spells “downtown.” You can click below to hear me read it.


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MOONLIGHT MADNESS

Dancing lights from cars pass
on busy sidewalks
with stores of all sorts to delight shopers who have
not a care in the world, as they stroll
to Penney’s, Woolworth’s
on streets that are crowded
with babies in strollers, children, and adults
needing nothing more than to shop and enjoy.

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What do you remember about downtown when you were growing up? What has changed since then?

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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Thursday Book Feature: A Broom of One’s Own

A Broom of One’s Own: Words on Writing, Housecleaning, and Life
Peacock, Nancy.
Copyright 2008.

In this funny and inspiring memoir, acclaimed novelist Nancy Peacock shares experiences from her days as a housecleaner, an occupation she undertook to support her writing. Each chapter tells a different story about her interactions with one or more of her clients. She describes what it was like to work for people in a gated community she calls “the promised land.” She touches on her relationships, interjects stories about her writing life, and provides advice to other writers. In the end, she explains how and why she finally quit the housecleaning business and started teaching and keeping her own house clean.

This book was recommended on a blog I follow, and I’m glad I picked it up. I laughed at some of her anecdotes and sympathized with her in many situations with clients, who appeared to be mostly rich snobs. The way she was treated sometimes, it’s a wonder she continued cleaning houses for as long as she did. I think anyone, not just writers, would find this book an interesting read.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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What’s in My Name?

Because I still have unpacking and catching up to do after returning from my trip, today’s post is short but hopefully sweet. Thanks to aurorajeanalexander for inspiring it.

My legal name is Abigail Louise Taylor. I’m not sure why my parents decided to name me Abigail, but Louise was my paternal grandmother’s name. Johnson was my maiden name, and Taylor was my married and now my widowed name. That’s why my author name is Abbie Johnson Taylor. Because I loved my husband, yet still felt a sense of loyalty toward my family after I was married, I decided to adopt both last names. That’s what Laura Ingalls Wilder did.

What’s your name? How much do you know about why you were given that name? You can either tell me in the comments field or on your own blog with a link to this post. Either way, I look forward to reading your answers.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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Let’s Talk

Here are twenty-five fun questions I picked up from blogger Amaan Khan. I triple dog dare you to answer these, either on your own blog or in the comments field. My answers are below.

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Q1: Do you have any pets?

A: No, although I like cats and dogs, after being my late husband Bill’s caregiver for six years, I’m still not ready to care for another living thing, even though it’s been five years since he died.

Q2: Name three things that are close to you.

A: My computer, my Braille tablet, which I’m using as a display at the moment, and my closed-circuit television reading system.
Q3: What’s the weather like right now”

A: Here in Sheridan, Wyoming, it’s sunny with a blue sky and 47 degrees Fahrenheit. The multitude of snow we’ve accumulated in the past couple of months is melting.

Q4: Do you drive? If so, have you crashed?

A: No, I don’t drive because of my visual impairment. If I did, I would crash.

Q5: What time did you wake up this morning?

A: About six thirty.

Q6: When was the last time you showered?

A: This morning.

Q7: Do you participate in any sports?

A: No, for the same reason I don’t drive, but I work out regularly.

Q8: What does your last text message say?

A: That I don’t remember since I haven’t received a text message in a couple of days.

Q9: What is your ring tone?

A: It’s simply called “harp.” It’s one of about twenty that were already on my phone when I got it.

Q10: Have you ever been out of your country or traveled by plane?

A: Yes, I traveled to Mexico with my father when I was twelve. We were living in Tucson, Arizona, at the time and studying Spanish and thought it would be fun to go there and practice what we’d learned. I came home with a bad case of Montezuma’s revenge. I’ve also made many trips by plane.

Q11: Do you like sushi?

A: I’ve never had it, but I’m sure I wouldn’t like it. It sounds disgusting.

Q12: Do you have a desktop or a laptop?

A: I have a desktop computer, but I also use a braille tablet.

Q13: How old will you be turning on your next birthday?

A: I’ll be fifty-seven.

Q14: Do you wear glasses or contacts?

A: No, they don’t do anything to correct my limited vision.

Q15: What is your favorite pizza topping?

A: I like everything on a pizza. My late husband Bill, on the other hand, only liked meat and mushrooms and a little cheese. WhenEver we ordered a pizza, we always got half and half. Because of my limited vision, after I served each of us a slice, Bill often took a bite and said, “Oooh, this is your half.”

Q16: Flight or invisibility?

A: I’m not sure I’m a fan of either.

Q17: Which is your favorite book of all time?

A: I don’t have any favorite books.

Q18: Are you married?

A: Not anymore. I was married in 2005. Three months later, Bill suffered the first of two strokes that paralyzed his left side. After six months of recuperation in a nursing home, I cared for him for six years until he passed in 2012. You can learn more about that by reading My Ideal Partner.
Q19: What is your favorite drink?

A: Dr. Pepper.

Q20: What was your favorite subject in school?

A: English.

Q21: What’s your favorite movie?

A: The Wizard of Oz.

Q22: How do I bring you to your knees?

A: Chocolate ice cream.

Q23: What is your favorite color?

A: Blue.

Q24: Did you graduate from high school?

A: Yes, in 1980.

Q25: What is the last thing you bought?

A: An iGoku Bluetooth speaker.

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Now, you know almost everything there is to know about me. As I said before, I encourage you to answer any or all of these questions, either in the comments field or on your own blog. If you answer the questions on your blog, please include a link to this post. I look forward to reading your answers.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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The Parking Lot Slog

Thanks to Alice Massa for inspiring this. In her post, she shares her winter travel adventures with her guide dog and explains why her accomplishments should have earned her an Olympic medal. I don’t have a guide dog, but here’s something I did last week that should have earned me an Olympic medal.

Last Thursday, a friend, who uses a walker, picked me up, and we drove to a restaurant downtown where we planned to meet others for our monthly friendship club luncheon. There were no empty parking spaces close to the restaurant, so we ended up in a lot about half a block away. Most of the week had been cold, with temperatures only in the teens most of the time, dropping below zero at night. On this particular day though, it was up to thirty degrees, which meant everything was turning to slush, including the parking lot.

The only thing to do was slog through the slush. Because of fear of falling at our age, my friend and I, clinging to her walker for dear life, made our way through the slush like two little old ladies out for an afternoon walk. We somehow managed to get to the street and across it to the sidewalk, which was clear, without falling flat on our backs. Now that should have earned us a gold medal.

Can you think of any winter adventures you survived that should have earned you an Olympic medal? I hope you’re staying warm and upright through these frigid, treacherous winter months. Take heart. Spring is just around the corner.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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Soggy Morning Contentment

Note: The following comes from fellow blogger Patty Fletcher, who is the author of two books and does marketing for other writers and businesses. Enjoy, and have a great day.

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Good Moonday)Monday morning campbellsworld visitors.
I hope this message finds you well, warm and dry.
Here, Campbell and I woke to another rainy chilly morning, and to be quite blunt, we are sick to death of mornings such as these.
Even Campbell who for those who do not know, is a big black Labrador, that should love water, grumbled as we went out for his first morning park time.
He took care of his necessary rather quickly and shook vigorously as we came back through the door with a mighty wiggly waggly jingly jangly shake, and humph of disgust as I stepped in behind him grabbing a doggy towel and firmly shutting the door against the nasty weather.
Once we were dried off, and he was fed, I went for my usual morning’s cup of coffee.
He came wagging happily along with his nails, clickety clickety clicketing, adding rhythm to the song of the morning rain waiting for his morning meds.
As I gave him his arthritis chews I thought, “Gods, I hope these are truly helping him. I never want him to feel the kind of pain I feel this day.”
Thanks to yet another soggy start to the morning, my wish to keep the light-bill down and not running any heat during the night, I am feeling the damp deep within my joints, and muscles this early morn.
Between the arthritis and fibro, some mornings are a real battle.
As I poured my coffee, and put it into the microwave to heat, I sang in a made-up tune,
“Reach out for the good.
Chase away the bad.
Think of all the blessings you have.
Try, try, and try.
Keep doing it till you smile.
Cause the alternative is, to cry, cry, and cry.”
The microwave beeped, my left-over coffee from yesterday was done, and as I spooned in sugar and began to stir, I chanted softly.
“Happy Moonday, it’s a great day to be sure.
The sun will come up behind the clouds and listen to those birds.
Thank you for the sun.
Thank you, when day is done,
All my needs, they will be met.
Thank you for what I have, and for what I have not yet.
Thank you for being you, and for showing me what to say and do.
Light my path, and guide my way, and help me get through another day.”
As I finished readying my coffee to drink, I realized I’d forgotten how badly I felt, and that I could certainly get through another day.
I went to sit with my Bubba to have my first cup of strength.
As I was kneeling to sit beside him, he began to thump his tale cheerfully on the loveseat where he lay,
When I’d settled myself onto the floor where I normally sit so I can reach to stroke his fur, and snuggle him into my arms, connecting with Mother Earth for my morning love-fest and meditation time, I said to him,
“You really do love your momma, don’t you?”
His answer? a swipe of his enormous tongue, and a generous helping of his loving nuzzles.
Tucking his head gently under my chin, and leaning into his loving warmth, I knew that I was safe, loved, and accepted.
So, I added to my morning prayers,
“Thank you especially for my Bubba. May he be blessed with long-life, and good health, for many years to come.”

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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