What a Paragon of Earthly Detachment: Billy Collins Reads His Poem Dharma

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Humor, wit, and sheer elegance are the most distinguishing features of Billy Collins’ poetry. As America’s two-term Poet Laureate and a wordsmith of immense talent and unique voice, he introduced countless people to the art of verse through his books and numerous teaching workshops.

Every poem that comes under his pen shows us that good poetry doesn’t have to be difficult or obscure — a rule evident in his deeply empathetic “Dharma” included in the collection Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems.

Read here by Billy Collins himself and masterfully animated by Sophia Li, this uncommonly soulful meditation celebrates our four-legged companions and their intrinsic ability to give meaning to our lives. Please enjoy.

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by Billy Collins

The way the dog trots out the front door
every morning
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.

Who provides a finer example
of a life without encumbrance —
Thoreau in his curtainless hut
with a single plate, a single spoon?
Gandhi with his staff and his holy diapers?

Off she goes into the material world
with nothing but her brown coat
and her modest blue collar,
following only her wet nose,
the twin portals of her steady breathing,
followed only by the plume of her tail.

If only she did not shove the cat aside
every morning
and eat all his food
what a model of self-containment she would be,
what a paragon of earthly detachment.
If only she were not so eager
for a rub behind the ears,
so acrobatic in her welcomes,
if only I were not her god.

Sailing Alone Around the Room is a must read for the lovers of poetry. Complement with Mary Oliver’s poetic tribute to her beloved dog Percy.

Book cover

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