The Tale of Meeting Billy Collins

by - 2:36 PM

Back in August of 2014, I accidentally stumbled upon an enormous opportunity to meet my favorite poet of all time, Billy Collins!  I travelled up to Washington, DC, with Zak on a film shoot to cover the National Book Festival, and for some reason I hadn't even bothered to check which authors would be attending and presenting until the night before the event!  When I finally glanced down the list, my eyes popped out of my head when I saw Billy Collin's name.  Oh stop everything.  I was going to get this man's signature at the National Book Festival the next day no matter what.

I remember as I stood in line for Billy's signature how little thought I was giving to the conversation I was about to have with my most revered poetic author.  Usually when it comes to meetings with celebrities, I try to take as much time as possible to rehearse a little something so that I sound like a semi-well adjusted adult, capable of normal human conversation.  Because, after all, I have been known to forget my own name in specific instances (such as the half time show at the basketball game I was cheer-leading for in 8th grade. Don't ask.).  But this time I thought, "No, you know what?  I've got this.  I don't need to rehearse a thing."

So after an hour of waiting in line and enduring many rumors started by the event coordinators that Billy might not be able to sign everyone's books or that perhaps I brought the wrong kind of book for Billy to sign and my wait would be in vain, all fears were assuaged; and there I was standing in front of the greatest living poet.

I handed him my book and he didn't even have to ask what my name was, because clearly he recognized me as Sonja Ciotti, fellow poet and the greatest Billy Collins fan of all time, and thus he signed it "To Sonja."  Haha, I'm kidding; he didn't have to ask what my name was because an event coordinator made us each write our name on a yellow sticky note and stick it on the front cover to streamline the process for Billy.  But whatevs, I still like to consider us on a first name basis now.

Anyway, I opened my mouth to compliment Billy on the poem of his that is my most cherished.  I mean, I read this poem about every 3 months and post it to my Facebook wall once a year.  That's some devotion.  And yet for some reason, in that moment, the poem's name completely left my consciousness.  So I said, "I love your poem...about spring."

And then he spoke back to me.  "What?" he said.

"The poem about spring." I shakily repeated, not even sure any more at this moment whether or not he'd ever written a poem about spring or, if he did, whether he would remember writing a poem about spring.  I mean how could anyone ever remember all the poems they'd ever written, right?

"Oh yes.  That's a hostile one, isn't it?" Billy replied coyly.

"Yeah, smashing a paperweight with a hammer!  That IS hostile," I said, now feeling like the wittiest person in the room because I remembered at least part of a line.

And then that was it and Billy handed my book back to me.

So, at the present time, I would like for the whole world to know that I do actually know the name of the poem.  "Today" by Billy Collins. There.

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