Dear Billy Collins

By now, I expect Billy Collins’ agent in California has received my fan letter. In another week, the letter and accompanying poem could be in Mr. Collins’ hands. Or perhaps it will drop into the former US poet laureate’s email as a scanned attachment with a message from the agent: “Another crack-pot fan letter for you.”

If the poetry Gods are feeling magnanimous, maybe the agent will direct my real correspondence to his address somewhere in Florida. I hand wrote the letter and poem on fancy vellum paper using a pen from which the ink flowed smoothly onto the page. No splatters obscured my carefully chosen words though I had to write the letter out twice because I made a spelling mistake in the first. Imagine a prize winning, best selling poet crumpling my letter smeared with his disdain and tossing it into the trash underneath his writing desk. Or jettisoning it into the kitchen compost on top of greasy blackened banana peels and garlic husks.

It was my husband who urged me to send the poem I wrote to Mr. Collins.

“I bet you get a reply.”

“I bet I don’t, but I hope it makes him laugh.”

“He’s a poet. How much fan mail can he possibly get?”

“It’s Billy Collins, dear, not an obscure scribbler holed up in the Alberta Badlands. I bet he gets all kinds of cringey fan mail.”

I had tucked the letter and poem into a card with a drawing of a chickadee by a Canadian artist and then, before I could change my mind, I ran through the snow to the mailbox and shoved it through the slot.

Since then I’ve felt kind of nauseated. What was I thinking sending a gushing fan letter to a literary luminary? Me, a 62-year-old woman who ought to know better. I break into a sweat thinking about my momentary hubris.

The worst that can happen is blistering silence. Like the time I entered an Australian poetry contest that promised Billy Collins would be the judge but of course only for the finalists. My poem didn’t make the cut. Since then I’ve wondered was the contest even legit? I paid the $25AUS entry fee but maybe this was an elaborate scam and I was suckered by a famous name attached to a literary snake oil purveyor. It could happen, couldn’t it? Or is this just the raving of my wounded pride? Nonetheless, it demonstrates my eagerness to hang out in the considerable shade of this famous poet, despite the chill.

I’ve decided even if I receive a perfunctory response, I’ll frame it. Anyway, I’m thinking that scant acknowledgement would be appropriate to my naked admiration. What can one do but turn away in the face of such a display?