on “Aristotle” – Billy Collins
“Homer Reciting his Poems“ (1790)
hot on the heels of my paean to
Billy Collins, his my favourite
poem of the year, a friend sent
me “Aristotle“, saying, hey, you
might like this, like this, Aristotle
has been my rebuke to Plato for
a while now, latent even in my
least metaphysical speculations
in his poem, Collins goes back
to the earliest definitions of the
structure of literary works as
anticipated, or defined even, by
arbiters who were trying to
understand their place and
function, the poems’, in the
culture, Aristotle’s “Poetics“ is
the very source, 350 BCE, the
diagram, for our understanding,
even in the present age, of what
we mean, in the West, by art,
we’ve been answering him ever
since, it’s genetic
Billy Collins‘ description is not
chronological, it’s poetic,
appropriate to its topic
its structure nevertheless
follows specifically Aristotelian
logic, shedding glory,
coincidentally, on both prophets
for a special treat, listen to the
poet’s audio recording at the
poem’s site – which delivers
even more compelling
information – by clicking the
red arrow pointing right
beside “Aristotle“, the title
R ! chard
This is the beginning.
Almost anything can happen.
This is where you find
the creation of light, a fish wriggling onto land,
the first word of Paradise Lost on an empty page.
Think of an egg, the letter A,
a woman ironing on a bare stage
as the heavy curtain rises.
This is the very beginning.
The first-person narrator introduces himself,
tells us about his lineage.
The mezzo-soprano stands in the wings.
Here the climbers are studying a map
or pulling on their long woolen socks.
This is early on, years before the Ark, dawn.
The profile of an animal is being smeared
on the wall of a cave,
and you have not yet learned to crawl.
This is the opening, the gambit,
a pawn moving forward an inch.
This is your first night with her,
your first night without her.
This is the first part
where the wheels begin to turn,
where the elevator begins its ascent,
before the doors lurch apart.