Poetry Sunday: On Rhyme

Billy Collins is not a rhyming sort of poet. In fact, if the lines of one of his poems ever rhyme, it seems like an accident. So, perhaps it is not surprising that the title of his new book is The Rain in Portugal. (See what he did there? You were expecting maybe Spain?)

He addresses the non-rhymingness of his poetry in one of the poems in the book. And it is called, of course, "On Rhyme." He addresses it with the quirky humor for which his poetry is famous.

On Rhyme

by Billy Collins

It's possible that a stitch in time
might save as many as twelve or as few as three,
and I have no trouble remembering
that September has thirty days.
So do June, November, and April.

I like a cat wearing a chapeau or a trilby,
Little Jack Horner sitting on a sofa,
old men who are not from Nantucket,
and how life can seem almost unreal
when you are gently rowing a boat down a stream.

That's why instead of recalling today
that it mostly pours in Spain,
I am going to picture the rain in Portugal,
how it falls on the hillside vineyards,
on the surface of the deep harbors

where fishing boats are swaying,
and in the narrow alleys of the cities
where three boys in tee shirts
are kicking a soccer ball in the rain,
ignoring the window-cries of their mothers.


  1. I really enjoy Billy Collins. He was on the Diane Rehm show recently and it was a great interview. He may have read parts of this one ... I remember "that it mostly pours in Spain"!

    1. Yes, I heard that interview and heard him reading the poem and thought, "Ah ha! Poem of the week!"

  2. "It's possible that a stitch in time
    might save as many as twelve or as few as three..."

    I like that!

  3. That is a good one! I have rhyming on the brain having just read Pale Fire by Nabokov and then today The Tempest, in which the bard goes back and forth between rhyming and not.

    1. I like both rhymers and non-rhymers among poets, but lately I seem especially drawn to non-rhymers.


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