Billy Collins’ main gig is writing poems.  He’s won just about every award the poetry world gives out.  But he likes to make up words, too.  Like incredementia ~ the inability to believe how old you’ve become.

It’s almost time to toss the 2013 calendar.  That means another birthday is around the corner. Billy Collins’ wisdom shines through his words. His latest poetry collection is Aimless Love.



One bright morning in a restaurant in Chicago

as I waited for my eggs and toast,

I opened the Tribune only to discover
that I was the same age as Cheerios.

Indeed, I was a few months older than Cheerios
for today, the newspaper announced,
was the 70th birthday of Cheerio
whereas mine had occurred earlier in the year.

Already, I could hear them whispering
behind my stooped and threadbare back,
Why that dude’s older than Cheerios

The way they used to say
Why that’s as old as the hills,
Only, the hills are much older than Cheerios
or any American breakfast cereal,
and more noble and enduring are the hills,
I surmised as a bar of sunlight illuminated my orange juice.

“To know how to grow old is the master-work of wisdom, and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living,” wrote the Swiss philosopher, poet, and critic Henri-Frédéric Amiel in 1874.

We baby boomers are learning just how hard that great art of living can be. 10,000 of us turn 65 each day.  And even though we can’t find our keys, we look mahvelous.


Listen to the interview with another charming Billy ~

Read an excerpt from Still Foolin’ ‘Em, Crystal’s memoir about turning 65~

Hear a clip from the audiobook~

Too many people try to ignore their birthdays. Why pretend it didn’t happen? Every day I’m here, I’m grateful to be on the other side of the dirt.

Toni 12/26/13


 The moon is right
The spirit’s up
We’re here tonight
And that’s enough
Simply having a wonderful Christmas time……

…..with an unputdownable book.


I’m bewitched (and totally oblivious to my holiday to-do-list) by James McBride’s story of the Bible-thumping John Brown.  You remember him, the white American abolitionist who in 1859 ~ along with 19 others ~ attacked the largest arsenal of weapons in America, ultimately prompting the Civil War by terrorizing the South and galvanizing abolitionists in the North.

“That’s the thing about the Old Man back in them days.  If he done a thing, it got whipped up into a heap of lies five minutes past breakfast.”

John Brown was a Calvinist northerner/failed businessman born in my hometown who dedicated his life to ending slavery. Was he a crazy zealot or a martyr for a just cause? The Good Lord Bird weaves a tale liberally peppered with irreverent historical characters, outrageous language and laugh-out-loud moments. That’s right, you’ll guffaw over John Brown.  

“We have to find ways to talk about our history that doesn’t punch people in the teeth,” says McBride.

It’s risky business, writing such a mischievous revision. This is one historical romp that stars a gender-bending male slave as the great abolitionist’s sidekick. What a read.

Get yourself a “Good Lord” moment here. (Scroll down the page for an excerpt.)

McBride’s joy in language is cosmic. There’s plenty of gristle and rotgut and barking and hollering to the Lord. I like a novel that comes in through the back door of history, one that tells me something I might not know by putting me in the heat of the action.

A daring writer as well as a composer and jazz saxophonist, McBride wows me.

The Good Lord Bird Band ~ have a listen.

The Good Lord Bird?  No spoilers here.

In McBride’s novel-as-memoir, some of it is true but not real and some of it is real but not true.  It’s an inspired mix of humor, history, and great storytelling. It wasn’t exactly what I expected when I cracked open my iPad because when I think of slavery and the life of John Brown, the last thing I think about is laughter. 

The National Book Awards sure got it right. Toni 12/20/13

Here’s a link to John Brown’s Birthplace in Torrington, CT ~