"Lost in Paris," A Poem Inspired by Place de la Concorde
As part of Billy Collins’s appearance at Arts & Letters Live in 2004, the DMA commissioned him to write a poem in response to a work of art of his choice in the DMA’s collection. Here is the poem he wrote as a response to Piet Mondrian's Place de la Concorde:
Lost in Paris
Of all the citizens to arbitrarily trap
It was Piet Mondrian whom I chose
To ask directions to Place de la Concorde.
In the time it took to set up his board
I could have found one of those
Kiosks that sell Gauloises and maps.
But he had already prepped
The whole canvas white
And painted the first of the rectangles blue.
Without their names, every rue
Looked like the others, and what did the bright
Red and yellow zones represent?
No matter — once I had thanked him for
His aid and turned a sharp corner to the left,
There was no way to go wrong.
I zigzagged like a man following a song
And thanks to his geometrical gift,
Ended up, as you can see, precisely at your door.
—Billy Collins ©2004