Reading Matters

Chance of a lifetime: Billy Collins in Asheville

It’s only about two hours-and-change to Asheville, where Billy Collins will read from his new collection, “The Rain in Portugal,” at 5 p.m. on Thursday at Malaprop’s Bookstore, 44 Haywood St.

He has also agreed to sign books. Even better, the event is free and open to the public.

The title of his latest collection, “The Rain in Portugal,” is taken from his poem, “On Rhyme,” in which he says,

“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.”

The collection, Collins’s 12th, includes 50 poems, most with Collins’ deft touch, a touch that emits sparks of light from the pages.

In “Praise of Ignorance,” he says,

“On a bench one afternoon

in a grassy park in Minneapolis,

I realized that what I liked best

about the dogs of Minneapolis

is they have no idea they’re in Minneapolis.”

I see in the back of the book that Collins wrote some of these poems in Umbria, that he has a new editor, and that he has friends who go over the poems before publication with what he calls “empathetic severity.” You can’t ask for better friends than those.