So there was this poem I heard on Prairie Home Companion that I liked, but all I remembered was ,” “Poet Laureate,” “dog, and “fun-nee.” I got sidetracked by the wrong Poet Laureate, but another stab into the PHC site turned up the segment where I first heard it. Three years ago. Wow. This is what it takes to get me to care about poetry? A dog??
The right Poet Laureate turned out to be Billy Collins, and the poem is “The Revenant“. In it, a dog returns to say:
I am the dog you put to sleep,
as you like to call the needle of oblivion,
come back to tell you this simple thing:
I never liked you–not one bit.
It goes on to totally puncture the balloon of sentimentality that surrounds most dogs. It’s bitingly funny, but he writes sweet poetry about dogs too. For example, “Dharma” opens with:
The way the dog trots out the front door
without a hat or an umbrella,
without any money
or the keys to her doghouse
never fails to fill the saucer of my heart
with milky admiration.
I love the saucer of milk. This one feels warmer and more complicated, going back and forth in mutual admiration and absurdities. It’s very nice, but really, I’m a cat person.
And then I found “Nightclub,” which comments on all the poems about a woman’s fleeting beauty. I got my fill of those in Essential Pleasures. Okay, I’m sold. I like his attitude. More of this kind of poem, please.