Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A Late Evening Thought: U2 and Billy Collins

Do you recall how, at the turn of the century (1999 to 2000), beyond all the Y2K hype, many a radio station was putting together its Top 100 songs of the 20th Century list? Among the stations I listened to, in Denver at the time, were those gathering rock and alternative songs. Yet in both of those related genres, no U2 song was selected, even though U2 was arguably the most successful, popular, and admired band of the last quarter century. No "Pride (In the Name of Love)," no "Sunday Bloody Sunday," no "With or Without You," no "One."

I feel the same way about Billy Collins. I'm not sure there's a particular poem of his that stands out as a Top 100 in contemporary English-language (let alone American) poetry, and yet his full body of work in the last 20 years, taken as a whole, is likewise successful, popular, and highly admired (and undoubtedly, like U2's music, imitated).

I haven't picked up any recent contemporary American poetry anthologies, so I can't say whether Collins is being anthologized (though imagine he must be). Clearly his poems appear in the top journals: Poetry and so forth.

It just strikes me as interesting is all. It probably has something to do with me fearing the idea of downloading only singles versus the full album, and why when choosing poetry for Terrain.org I prefer a group of poems versus just one. I like the idea of a body of work rather than a single appendage, perhaps.

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