Billy Collins reading

Yesterday I sat in the audience and listened to the delightful presentation by Billy Collins. His droll humor came through in his narrative as well as in his poems. He is a master at making everyday events and objects take on new meanings. His best work often winks at you from the page and his poems always feel like personal anecdotes that he wants to share with his reader.

Collins says that he sometimes begins a poem without a clear idea of where it will take him. One day he was doodling on a pad, needing something to write about. He wrote two words and challenged himself to write a poem about those two words. The words were hippopotamus and holiday. He then read the poem, “Hippos on Holiday,” that eventually emerged from the exercise.

I thought the advice was worth passing along to you. I’ve used the same technique but it’s nice to hear that a United States Poet Laureate employs it too.

For the fun of it, I’ll choose one word and accept the challenge to write a poem that springs from that word. My word is dirt. I’ll post a poem based on dirt no later than one week from today (Sunday, October 11). My poem may be humorous or serious, verse or free verse, long or short.

If you would like to try the same technique, pick a word — mine or your own — let us know what you’ve chosen, and post the resulting poem one week from today.