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Whale Day: And Other Poems

Whale Day: And Other Poems

by Billy Collins
Whale Day: And Other Poems

Whale Day: And Other Poems

by Billy Collins


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Notes From Your Bookseller

What if Penn & Teller were poets instead of magicians? They approach their craft seriously but present it with humor. They present the wonder of the world by telling you they are going to pull a rabbit out of a hat—and yet, we're still surprised when they do. The poems in Whale Day display this same kind of magic—simple language arranged creatively. Billy Collins' sleight of hand isn't there to trick us into reading poetry, instead, it's to remind us of the beauty of living.

A wondrous collection from Billy Collins, former U.S. Poet Laureate and New York Times bestselling author of The Rain in Portugal
“The poems are marked by his characteristic humor and arise out of small, banal moments, unearthing the extraordinary or uncanny in the everyday.”—The Wall Street Journal

Whale Day brings together more than fifty poems and showcases the deft mixing of the playful and the serious that has made Billy Collins one of our country’s most celebrated and widely read poets. Here are poems that leap with whimsy and imagination, yet stay grounded in the familiar, common things of everyday experience. Collins takes us for a walk with an impossibly ancient dog, discovers the original way to eat a banana, meets an Irish spider, and even invites us to his own funeral. Sensitive to the wonders of being alive as well as the thrill of mortality, Whale Day builds on and amplifies Collins’s reputation as one of America’s most interesting and durable poets.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399589775
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/05/2021
Pages: 144
Sales rank: 178,059
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Billy Collins is the author of twelve prior collections of poetry including The Rain in Portugal, Aimless Love, Horoscopes for the Dead, Ballistics, The Trouble with Poetry, Nine Horses, Sailing Alone Around the Room, Questions About Angels, The Art of Drowning, and Picnic, Lightning. He is also the editor of Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry, 180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Every Day, and Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds. A former Distinguished Professor at Lehman College of the City University of New York, Collins served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003 and as New York State Poet from 2004 to 2006. In 2016 he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in Florida with his wife, Suzannah.


Somers, New York

Date of Birth:

March 22, 1941

Place of Birth:

New York, New York


B.A., Holy Cross College, 1963; Ph.D. in Romantic poetry, University of California at Riverside, 1971

Read an Excerpt


Walking My Seventy-Five-Year-Old Dog

She’s painfully slow,

so I often have to stop and wait

while she examines some roadside weeds

as if she were reading the biography of a famous dog.

And she’s not a pretty sight anymore,

dragging one of her hind legs,

her coat too matted to brush or comb,

and a snout white as a marshmallow.

We usually walk down a disused road

that runs along the edge of a lake,

whose surface trembles in a high wind

and is slow to ice over as the months grow cold.

We don’t walk very far before

she sits down on her worn haunches

and looks up at me with her rheumy eyes.

Then it’s time to carry her back to the car.

Just thinking about the honesty in her eyes,

I realize I should tell you

she’s not really seventy-five. She’s fourteen.

I guess I was trying to appeal to your sense

of the bizarre, the curiosities of the sideshow.

I mean who really cares about another person’s dog?

Everything else I’ve said is true,

except the part about her being fourteen.

I mean she’s old, but not that old,

and it’s not polite to divulge the true age of a lady.

Contemporary Americans

I was trying to make my way

across a busy street in San Francisco,

while carrying the new anthology of poetry

I’d been flipping through earlier that morning—

with my pot of tea and two pieces of cinnamon toast—

in which I was wedged between James Tate and Bob Dylan

because the poets were arranged old to young, according to age.

I had to avoid a couple of cars,

cross over two sets of trolley tracks,

and dodge a guy with a ski cap on a bicycle

in order to get across the street and enter

one of the city’s many hospitable parks

with their hedges, benches, and shade trees

and often girls on a blanket, a juggler, an old man doing tai-chi.

And that’s where I lay down on the soft grass,

closed my eyes, and after a little while

began to picture the three of us lined up in a row

according to the editor’s wishes,

sliding out of our mothers in order, one after the other,

then ending up pressed together on a shelf

in a corner bookstore, yodeling away in the dark.

Paris in May

A teddy bear in a store window,

three housepainters

waiting to cross a boulevard,

a woman in a café, her red nails

on a man’s nape while she smokes—

what are we to make of all this?

In the church of Saint-Sulpice,

the Virgin holds her baby to her chest

as she stands on the round earth,

appearing to be unaware

of the serpent she is crushing with one foot.

Outside, four stone lions guard a fountain.

Is this a puzzle I am meant to solve

before the evening bells ring again—

here a man wearing a newspaper hat,

there a child alone on a flowery balcony?

An outdoor table on Rue Cassette

seemed a good enough place to sort things out.

And sure enough,

after two milky-green glasses of Pernod,

the crowd flowed around me like a breeze,

and I found a link between my notebook

and the soft Parisian sky,

both being almost the same pale shade of blue.

Table of Contents

The Function of Poetry xvii


Walking My Seventy-Five-Year-Old Dog 3

Contemporary Americans 5

Paris in May 6

And It's Raining Outside, Which Always Adds 8

Life Expectancy 10

Sleeping on My Side 12

The Floors of Bonnard 13

Down on the Farm 14

Imperial Garden 16

Mice 18

Prospect 20

Evening Wind 22

Whiskers 24

Walking Under the Trees 25

Whale Day 26


The Wild Barnacle 31

Objectivity 34

Banana School 36

Identity 38

Arizona 40

Irish Spider 41

Listening to Hank Mobley Around 11 O'Clock 42

After a Long Fun Boozy Dinner, the Four of Us, at Captain Pig's, Our Favorite Restaurant in Town The Card Players 43

Vivace! 45

A Terrible Beauty 47

Duck Blind 49

She's Gone 50

Downpour 52


Safe Travels 57

Hawaii 59

The Emperor of Ice Cubes 61

I Am Not Italian 63

The Symphony Orchestra of San Miguel de Allende 64

Dublin 66

Cremation 68

Lakeside Cottage: Ontario 70

The Convergence of My Parents 72

Dreaming of the Middle Ages 74

The Yellow Wood 77

My Funeral 78

The Pregnant Man 80

Architecture at 3.-30 AM. 81

The Garland 83


Me First 87

A Sight 88

Air Sax 89

English Roses 90

On the Deaths of Friends 91

Cupid 93

Talking to Myself 94

Ireland Floating on a Map of the World 96

The Flash Card 97

Anniversary 99

Early People 101

My Father's Office, John Street, New York City, 1953 103

April 21st 106

Massage 108

Hotel Rex 110

Going for a Walk as the Drugs Kick In 111

Acknowledgments 113

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