Sunday, May 25, 2008


Enough with the dark poetry. It’s time for some light-hearted fun. And who better to shed some humor onto this blog than the master of sarcasm, Billy Collins?

by Billy Collins

Smokey the Bear heads
into the autumn woods
with a red can of gasoline
and a box of wooden matches.

His ranger's hat is cocked
at a disturbing angle.

His brown fur gleams
under the high sun
as his paws, the size
of catcher's mitts,
crackle into the distance.

He is sick of dispensing
warnings to the careless,
the half-wit camper,
the dumbbell hiker.

He is going to show them
how a professional does it.

The first time I read this poem was a few years ago. I had assigned one of my sophomore classes to create a journal of contemporary poetry. (Let’s just say that that was not one of the easier assignments I’ve ever given.) Most of the journals contained things that were less than impressive, things from the poetry books and websites that make kids hate poetry. But one student found this poem, and oh, how I laughed.

Collins is a true genius when it comes to creating images that stay with you in a comical way, and this poem is a great example of that. Smokey the Bear, angry, carrying a can of gasoline and some matches, determined to set a fire and get some revenge… well that’s just good clean fun for everyone!

But as is common with Collins’ work, I do think that there is a deeper meaning to this poem, something along the lines of “we all get tired of the routines of life.” Maybe I’m just reading into this too much, looking for something unintentional so I can justify my love of this one on a moral level. Ah, who cares. I love it anyway!

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