The Poets of Nonchalance

There are some modern poets, Billy Collins in the vanguard, who write what I call the poetry of nonchalance. Extremely modern, often humorous, prone to the quotidian, they make poetry writing look easy.

I put George Bilgere’s work in the same church and pew as St. Billy of Collins’. I’m not sure he rates knighthood yet (when it happens: St. George of Bilgere), but soon, I suppose, if he keeps working the blue-collar mill.

The thing about these School of Nonchalance poets is, they write like it’s no big deal. Like the poem came out in a burst. Like it’s not “poetic” at all, yet likable by all, because it was just written off the cuff, as a whim, in a few minutes with coffee (hot, black, and no-nonsense).

You read Collins, Bilgere, et al., and promptly say to yourself, “Hey. Look how ordinary his topics are. Look how informal his writing is. Look how inviting this all seems. Who knew poetry could be so easy?”

Then you try to write like that and you realize it’s not you. It’s you channeling Collins & Bilgere, Esquires, a law firm that can lay down the law and warns you’ll get in trouble if you approach the bench by your lonesome.

Suddenly, you go all “Dante,” from lighthearted to “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.”

Sheesh. Can’t light and humorous poems have a sense of humor about poets trying to be light and humorous?

Here’s a typical Bilgere outing, seemingly routine but not. See if it goes down like a mid-afternoon snack. Not tea and crumpets but Pabst and Cheez-Its, maybe:


“Going to Bed”
by George Bilgere

I check the locks on the front door

and the side door,

make sure the windows are closed

and the heat dialed down.

I switch off the computer,

turn off the living room lights.


I let in the cats.


Reverently, I unplug the Christmas tree,

leaving Christ and the little animals

in the dark.


The last thing I do

is step out to the back yard

for a quick look at the Milky Way.


The stars are halogen-blue.

The constellations, whose names

I have long since forgotten,

look down anonymously,

and the whole galaxy

is cartwheeling in silence through the night.


Everything seems to be ok.