Reading An Anthology Of Chinese Poems Of The Sung Dynasty, I Pause To Admire The Length And Clarity Of Their Titles

It seems these poets have nothing
up their ample sleeves
they turn over so many cards so early,
telling us before the first line
whether it is wet or dry,
night or day, the season the man is standing in,
even how much he has had to drink.

Maybe it is autumn and he is looking at a sparrow.
Maybe it is snowing on a town with a beautiful name.

"Viewing Peonies at the Temple of Good Fortune
on a Cloudy Afternoon" is one of Sun Tung Po's.
"Dipping Water from the River and Simmering Tea"
is another one, or just
"On a Boat, Awake at Night."

And Lu Yu takes the simple rice cake with
"In a Boat on a Summer Evening
I Heard the Cry of a Waterbird.
It Was Very Sad and Seemed To Be Saying
My Woman Is Cruel--Moved, I Wrote This Poem."

There is no iron turnstile to push against here
as with headings like "Vortex on a String,"
"The Horn of Neurosis," or whatever.
No confusingly inscribed welcome mat to puzzle over.

Instead, "I Walk Out on a Summer Morning
to the Sound of Birds and a Waterfall"
is a beaded curtain brushing over my shoulders.

And "Ten Days of Spring Rain Have Kept Me Indoors"
is a servant who shows me into the room
where a poet with a thin beard
is sitting on a mat with a jug of wine
whispering something about clouds and cold wind,
about sickness and the loss of friends.

How easy he has made it for me to enter here,
to sit down in a corner,
cross my legs like his, and listen.

by Billy Collins

Comments (4)

Once again, as always, the appeal to simplicity. Poetry in Billy Collins' mind should be easy. No difficult titles, please, like The Waste Land or Ozymandius or Gerontion. No! We have to be spoon-fed this retiree pablum so that our baby teeth don't hurt too much. Awwwww, wittle wittle baby, here's a poem for baby!
What happened over the years that we have come to value obscurity over clarity. Perhaps in the name of structure, rhyming, metaphor. Perhaps just a matter of ego. If you are as smart as me you will get it. If not well..... What is gained by writing a poem that requires a degree in literature and the mastery of three languages, two of them dead, to be comprehensible? ?
wow i will give you a +10
I've run out of superlatives...