I'd like to sing like Billy Collins writes - Thoughts on 'Medium'

In the poem "Medium," Billy Collins writes about how enjoyable it is to write.  He explores his desire for a more fluid and uncontrolled approach to writing. He expresses a preference for writing like a Renaissance painter applying oil colors to a canvas, allowing words to flow freely like watercolors, without the constraints of friction. Collins longs to write on ephemeral surfaces, such as water or air, and even on the skin of an ideal reader. His words convey the joy he finds in the act of writing, seeking a connection and engagement akin to the wonder of children reading messages in the sand at the beach, alluding to the immense pleasure he derives from the creative process.

I am reminded how Kabir wants to dance and Guru Nanak wants to sing.  Several other artists share a common thread of unwavering dedication and passion for their craft, often pushing the boundaries of what is possible within their chosen art forms. Before you read this poem by Billy Collins, here are some of those who inspire me in the same way:

1. Pablo Picasso (Visual Artist): Picasso's passion for art was legendary. He famously said, "Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." Just as Collins seeks to free his words from constraints, Picasso constantly pushed the boundaries of artistic expression through various styles, including Cubism and Surrealism.

2. Emily Dickinson (Poet): Like Collins, Emily Dickinson was known for her intense devotion to writing. She secluded herself in her room to focus on her poetry, exploring themes of life, death, and nature. Her passion for writing is evident in her prolific output of nearly 1,800 poems. I read Emily Dickinson a lot and you can find many of her poems in my blog. 

3. Johann Sebastian Bach (Composer): Bach's dedication to composing music is legendary. He once stated, "I worked hard. Anyone who works as hard as I did can achieve the same results." Much like Collins' desire for control in writing, Bach's meticulous craftsmanship and innovative compositions continue to inspire musicians and listeners alike. Sometimes people say that God gifted me a beautiful voice. I know how rough of a time I have had perfecting my voice, and it is far from perfect now.  I do feel blessed that God gave me the perception to see how I can learn from those who truly sing well, and the energy to keep improving myself despite the tall hill. 

4. Virginia Woolf (Author): Virginia Woolf's passion for writing was deeply intertwined with her exploration of the inner lives of her characters. Her stream-of-consciousness writing style, as seen in "Mrs. Dalloway," exemplifies her commitment to portraying the complexity of human thought and emotion, mirroring Collins' pursuit of depth in his writing.

5. Jimi Hendrix (Musician): Hendrix's passion for playing the guitar was a form of self-expression that transcended traditional boundaries. He once said, "I'm the one that's got to die when it's time for me to die, so let me live my life the way I want to." This echoes Collins' desire for creative freedom, as both artists sought to break away from conventions and create something entirely unique in their respective mediums.


by Billy Collins

The way I like to lay it down sometimes
there is too much traction on paper.
The ink soaks into the cloth of the page.
The words adhere like burrs to a woolen cuff.

I would rather behave on a surface of oil,

a young Renaissance painter in a frock
and a crushed, deep blue velvet hat,
moving the oleaginous colors into the face
of the Virgin or lightening the gray
of the sky behind the oval of her head.

I want to write with the least control,
one finger on the steering wheel,
to write like a watercolorist
whose brush persuades the liquids
to stay above the pull and run of gravity.

I want to hold the pen lightly
as you would touch the stilted, wooden
pointer on a ouija board,
letting it glide over the letters
until it comes to rest as a stone
thrown across a frozen mountain lake
will stop somewhere in the darkness
when the long insistance of friction
has its way and will no longer be overcome.

I would love to write on water
like the final words of Keats
so a current would carry the sentences away
and the slightest breeze would ruffle
the glassy curves of their meaning.

I want to write on air
as in the rapid language of signs
or in the lighting of a cigarette,
both hands cupped near the mouth,
then one waving out the flame
and the long, silent exhalation of smoke,
the gate of the body swinging open.

Most of all,
I want to write on your skin
with the tip of my finger,
printing one capital letter at a time
on the sloping vellum of your back.
I want you to guess the message
being written on your flesh
as children do in summer at the beach,
to feel the shape of every letter
being traced upon your body--oh, ideal reader--
to read with your eyes shut tight,
kneeling in the sand, facing the open sea.

Guru Nanak implores infinity to help him sing: "Tell me how to sing"

Tere Gun Gaavan Deh Bujhai