Imagining Budapest: Billy Collins’ Poem

Billy Collins, a popular award-winning American poet (teaching in Bronx, and poet laureate) has dedicated an enchanting poem to Budapest, or rather, an imaginary stay in Budapest, or elsewhere – travelling in mind.
Here’s the poem on video and the ‘lyrics’

My pen moves along the page like the snout of a strange animal, shaped like a human arm and dressed in the sleeve of a loose green sweater. I watch it sniffing the paper ceaselessly, intent as any forager that has nothing on its mind but the grubs and insects that will allow it to live another day. It wants only to be here tomorrow, dressed perhaps in a sleeve of a plaid shirt, nose pressed against the page, writing a few more dutiful lines while I gaze out the window and imagine Budapest, or some other city where I have never been.

I quite like this Budapest poem as well as the animation by Julian Grey/ Head Gear. The reflected building you can see at the end of the clip is the Parliament in Budapest. While one “part of the speaker’s body” (i.e. The Pen) becomes an independent adventurer (sniffing around the paper like an animal), another body-part (i.e. The Head) gets similarly free of rein, foraging amongst the cities, feeding the imagination, and at the same time, both the hand and the head reflecting themselves and one another (sort of criss-cross observational poems). Billy once said of his writing style:

“I write two lines or three lines. I will immediately stop and turn into a reader instead of a writer, and I’ll read those lines as if I had never seen them before and as if I had never written them. And if they still make sense and if they still have good cadence and if there’s something interesting going on there, then I’ll go forward, turn back into the writer, and write another two or three or six lines, and then go back and bring the reader out and see what he thinks of it.”

(Guernica Magazine)

More animated poems by Billy Collins can be found here.

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