A few years ago, my friend Madge told me that I should be reading Billy Collins. I don’t read much poetry – Rilke and Neruda are favorites, along with Mary Oliver and Amy Lowell and a handful of others. But she’s good at spotting books I might like, so I trusted her about this, too. She was right, of course. I hope she won’t mind that I’m borrowing him here.
I’ve found over time that the breaks I take from writing are as essential as the time I spend at my desk. An idea will come to me when I’m cleaning the kitchen or if I’m in my car. Sometimes that’s all it take to shake loose a single true sentence. Sometimes nothing else works.
The sun finally goes down like the end
of the Russian novel, and the blinding darkness
over the continent makes me realize
how tired I am of reading and writing,
tired of watching all the dull, horse-drawn sentences
as they plough through fields of paper,
tired of being dragged on a leash of words
by an author I can never look up and see,
tired of examining the exposed spines of books,
I want to be far from the shores of language,
a boat without passengers, lost at sea,
no correspondence, no thesaurus,
not even a name painted across the bow.
Nothing but silence, the kind that falls
whenever I walk outside with a notebook
and a passing cloud darkens my page.
– Billy Collins