I have never been fishing on the Susquehanna
or on any river for that matter
to be perfectly honest.

Not in July or any month
have I had the pleasure — if it is a pleasure —
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

I am more likely to be found
in a quiet room like this one —
a painting of a woman on the wall,

a bowl of tangerines on the table —
trying to manufacture the sensation
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

There is little doubt
that others have been fishing
on the Susquehanna,

rowing upstream in a wooden boat,
sliding the oars under the water
then raising them to drip in the light.

But the nearest I have ever come to
fishing on the Susquehanna
was one afternoon in a museum in Philadelphia,

when I balanced a little egg of time
in front of a painting
in which that river curled around a bend

under a blue cloud-ruffled sky,
dense trees along the banks,
and a fellow with a red bandana

sitting in a small, green
flat-bottom boat
holding the thin whip of a pole.

That is something I am unlikely
ever to do, I remember
saying to myself and the person next to me.

Then I blinked and moved on
to other American scenes
of haystacks, water whitening over rocks,

even one of a brown hare
who seemed so wired with alertness
I imagined him springing right out of the frame.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Billy Collins's poem Fishing On The Susquehanna In July


  1. Dan says:

    Growing up on the banks of the Susquehanna, I stumbled upon this poem and fell in love with it and Billy Collins. I wont pretend to know what I am talking about when it comes to literature , but I have always taken this poem to be about how we have to accept that there are things we just wont get to experience, though someone else probably did, and we can imagine them clear as day but never get to experience them. Someone else’s lifetime experiences can be summed up in one painting for someone to marvel about how they will never experience that. He took a moment out of his day to admire an experience he probably wont do. I also love the line and description of “balancing an egg of time”

  2. alexis says:

    its good

  3. Douglass M. Allen says:

    This is one of my favoiite poems by a modern poet. Like Archibald Macleish’s “Ars Poetica,” it is a description of the art and craft of poetry. The first few lines are among the funniet in all of literature. Billy Collin’s art and craft mark him as a poet that will be remembered centuries hence.

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