I love to read poetry, and I also love to hear poetry read out loud. Somehow words take on a new life when spoken by a good reader. The few times I’ve read poetry aloud I always feel self-conscious and aware of my tone and inflection. (When I read Robert Frost’s “The Master Speed” at my friends’ wedding years ago, I marked up the poem with the words breathe and pause!)
So how delightful it was to hear a 3-year old child recite Billy Collins’ “Litany” on YouTube recently, full of emotion and feeling. I can’t embed the video, but you can click here to see the video at YouTube.
Here’s the poem itself:
You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.
However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.
It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general’s head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.
And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.
It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.
I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.
I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman’s tea cup.
But don’t worry, I’m not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and–somehow–the wine.
— Billy Collins
It’s just an astounding realization of how a poem can travel away from your desk, away from the room you wrote it in and find its way into all these corners of life, and find its way into the mind of a 3-year-old child,” Collins said. “[It’s] just very moving.