Forgetfulness, Billy Collins (But mostly, I want to hear from you)


The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

This has been a strange week in terms of posts. I don’t want to completely deprive you of beautiful writing today, but I also need a fair amount of space for the following information, so luxuriate in Billy Collins for a few more minutes, and when you’re done, move on to the topic below.

* * *

For the last year, I’ve been getting a number of requests from authors to read and review books, both self- and traditionally published. My response when I manage to write back (and yes, I know I have an embarrassingly poor track record returning emails of this nature) is that I’m not accepting requests  at this time. The bottom line is that I simply don’t have time to read every book sent to me, and I don’t want to make false promises when it comes to something so important – and for every author who contacts me, I recognize that it’s of critical importance to reach a wider audience.

Creating art and sharing it with the world is a vulnerable, difficult task. It takes courage and perseverance, and artists face a lot of rejection in the process. One of the reasons I choose not to send a canned response to the people asking for my help is that I hate being another No. While I can’t change my policy about accepting unsolicited books to review (and due to other commitments on my time, I really can’t), I would like to give authors the opportunity to signal boost their books here from time to time. Since I’m going on vacation and helping a friend move at the end of July, I decided that might be a good time to give this a try. If it goes well, I’ll do it again in six months; if it doesn’t, well, at least we tried.

If you’re interested in participating, please read the guidelines below. If you want to take part in this experiment, you must follow these directions. I used to teach preschool, and my least favorite job (in a line of work that included projectile vomiting and children coughing directly into my mouth) was sending reminders or being forced to make exceptions for parents who couldn’t follow instructions. It made me rageful. I don’t enjoy that feeling, so I’ll be completely honest – if you don’t follow the guidelines, your book won’t be included. I realize it sounds harsh, but I don’t have infinite hours to spend correcting other people’s work. If I’d wanted to do that, I would have stayed in teaching. That being said, I know you can do this – I have faith in you!

Still with me? Read on:

1. You must be the author of the book you’re submitting. Additionally, it must be within your power to provide me with the information I’ll be asking for below without fear of copyright infringement.

2. The book must have a publication date between April and December 2013.

3. You must send the information requested below to by 5pm (17:00) Pacific Daylight Time SUNDAY, JULY 14.

4. In your email, please include:

– The TITLE and GENRE of the book

– The PUBLICATION DATE of the book (if it is being published traditionally, please include the PUBLISHER as well)

– A THREE SENTENCE SUMMARY of the book (no vulgar language or grammatical errors please)

– Additionally, you are welcome (but not required) to send an image of the book cover if you have one. I also strongly recommend that you include a link if you have a website with more information about your book.

To be clear, what should be included in your email is asked for above. I don’t need a cover letter,  resume, or excerpt of the book. Also, do me a favor and skip the formatting craziness (for example, please don’t capitalize entire words the way I have above). As my biology teacher once told me, “I don’t give extra points for glitter.” (This was just after I handed in a gigantic poster diagramming my assigned cell – it happened to be sperm – decorated with six different colors of sparkly puff paint.)

If you have any questions, please ask them in the Comments so that the answers may be referenced by others as needed. I look forward to sharing your books at the end of the month!

9 thoughts on “Forgetfulness, Billy Collins (But mostly, I want to hear from you)

  1. I loved your work on the mind and forgetting small pieces of trivia. I am now sixty seven years on this planet and empathize with your work. i taught for forty years in the classroom, but if you asked me to name a dozen students I probably would go blank. I remember the lesson plans that succeeded and forgot conveniently the ones that did not. I remember some days that had fire and some days that had rain but for the life of me I can not remember someones name. All of the students in my mind look alike and they have faded fast. Some made a lasting good impression and some I wanted to kick in the ???. Forty years went fast and retirement is not what I thought it would be. So I write in my blog and hopefully someone will get a glimpse of what use to be me.

    1. My head is usually so full of ideas for theplo0t of my book,, a poem or a painting that I forget where I put my gloves, handbag, comb, , well just about everything to do with everyday things.:))

  2. Thanks again for the poem by Billy Collins . . . By a very odd coincidence, only several days after your previous post about this poet, I realized that I was actually in the middle of reading a recent book of poetry that he edited, Bright Wings, an anthology of poems about birds (with beautiful illustrations by David Allen Sibley). I had been so focused on the title and the contents that the editor’s name hadn’t found a place in my memory at all! (Wee bit scary :)
    Keep up your lovely work.

    1. My mother always blames lapses like that on age, but I’ve always been terrible with memory – if it gets worse with age, I’m definitely in trouble!

      Also, that books sounds amazing. I’m going to have to try to find a copy!

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