Contact Me:

Questions? Suggestions for a post? Corrections? Please contact me at

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Lanyard by Billy Collins (and Lori)

Lanyard with key ring Asian Squares 21"
This Lanyard is made by Lori on Etsy 

My favorite contemporary poet is Billy Collins, United States Poet Laureate from 2001-2003. His poetry contains refreshing clarity and wit while expressing beautiful imagery. Below is his poem, "The Lanyard" which makes me laugh every time (I also highly recommend, "Litany"). To best experience Billy Collins, though, I recommend hearing him read it himself, so I'm including video. I was thrilled to witness him read his poetry at the 2010 BookMarks book festival in Downtown Winston-Salem, and look forward to discovering what talent they have in store for us at this year's festival on Saturday, September 11th.

Speaking of lanyards, Lori at "In His Name" Etsy shop made my lanyard (pictured) and you can choose from most any other fabric pictured in her shop. These lanyards make great gifts for teachers, nurses and anyone who must wear a badge for work. I got a few for the upcoming Teacher Appreciation gifts. She does e-reader covers as well.  Lori is offering a 5% off coupon to SouthernAsBiscuits blog readers, just enter the coupon code "SOUTHERNASBISCUITS" upon checkout! Now, enjoy the laugh the video below gives you and rethink your position on poetry! 

The Lanyard - Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.
No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.
I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.
She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light
and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.
Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth
that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

Included in The Trouble with Poetry.


  1. That is the best poetry reading I've heard in a long, long time. I enjoyed that so much. Thank you for starting out my day with giggles!


  2. You are most welcome. Billy is the best! Be sure to check out "Litany" too!