Poetry News

Billy Collins vs. 3 year old kid

By Harriet Staff

Remember this? The three year old kid flawlessly reciting Billy Collins's poem "Litany"?

Well, the Arizona Poetry Center decided to put this precocious kid (Samuel Chelpka) and Billy Collins in a room together, lock the door, and see which one emerged with the other's heart in his teeth and the true claim to "Litany" in his clutch.

Okay, not really. They just met and talked. NPR reports:

No one knew quite what to expect when the center invited Collins to meet the now-4-year-old boy and his parents, Christopher and Della Chelpka. Would the boy be shy? Not a chance. Within five minutes of meeting his hero — how many 4-year-olds have poets as heroes? — Samuel was reciting another Collins poem.

"I know 'The Country,' " he told Collins.

"You're kidding?" Collins responded. "That's great. You know those poems are hard to memorize because they don't have rhymes?"

Samuel said yes, but he went on anyway, flawlessly reciting a poem filled with irony, humor and imagery. His parents say most people ask whether Samuel understands what he's saying. They ask whether that matters.

"You've probably had that experience where you've read a poem and you don't feel like you know what it quote means, yet you still enjoy it," Christopher Chelpka said. "There's something about the rhythm and the images that sparks your imagination."

Originally Published: November 10th, 2010