In Focus

"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