Billy Collins

Piano Epistemology, Apostrophes and Beauty
February 21, 2024 Collins Billy

Piano Epistemology


I’m pretty sure this piano exists,
taking up a whole corner of this room as it does
with its grand heaviness,
its black curviness,
and its 2 legs in front, 1 in back.


But just to make sure,
instead of kicking it
or banging my forehead against it,
I’m going to sit down on the adjustable bench,
lift the long glossy cover,


and try to play “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most”
in such a way that the notes will represent
the many undeniable things of the world
and the chords the way
we can’t help feeling about them.





“O Goddesss!”
Keats hailed fair Psyche.


“O Soul,” wrote Donne,
wondering where it dwelled.


“O World, O Life, O Time,”
proclaimed rhapsodic Shelley,


then Yeats looked down
at the earth and offered


“O’Leary in his grave.”





This morning,
a man on the radio said
“After the storm,
there was quite a great deal of beauty,”


which reminded me
of how difficult it is
to talk about beauty,


especially when quite
a great deal of it
is given to us
before, during, and after every storm.


Billy Collins’ most recent book is Musical Tables. His poetry collections include Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems (2001); Picnic, Lightning (1998); and The Art of Drowning (1995). In October 2004, Collins was the inaugural recipient of the Poetry Foundation’s Mark Twain Award for humorous poetry. His other awards and honors include fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. He has served as a Literary Lion of the New York Public Library and is a distinguished professor of English at Lehman College, City University of New York, where he has taught for the past 40 years. He is also Senior Distinguished Fellow of the Winter Park Institute in Florida and, as of 2015, an MFA faculty member at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. In 2016, Collins was elected into The American Academy of Arts and Letters.