Billy Collins poetically warns against the use of transitions in this short, 24-line poem.

Written by Cole Schafer

I’ve been lapping up Billy Collins’s poetry ever since my dear friend, Ben Cake, recommended I read him.

I, unintentionally, read his collection “Aimless Love” whilst working through Charles Bukowski’s “What matters most is how well you walk through the fire” and found them to be the most glorious of contrasts.

When you read Collins, a feeling comes over you that I can best describe as an afternoon stroll, in the middle of fall when the air is cool but not overly so and the planet is popping with deep reds and oranges and yellows that are warm on the eyes; and everything feels easy and everything feels right.

Collins’s poetry is calming, graceful and… easy. Bukowski’s, on the other hand, is anything but.

Despite this contrast in style, both have a habit of passing along writing advice in their poetry.

Billy Collins does just this in a 24-line poem titled “A word about transitions” where he warns against –– yes you guessed it –– transitions.

I’m a whore where transitions are concerned so I found this poem to be both insecurity-inducing and hugely helpful.

*Billy Collins is typing now*

Moreover is not a good way to begin a poem

though many start somewhere in the middle.

Secondly should not be placed

at the opening of your second stanza.

Furthermore should be regarded

as a word to avoid,

Aforementioned is rarely found

in poems at all and for good reason.

Most steer clear of notwithstanding,

and the same goes for

nevertheless, however,

as a consequence, in any event,


and as we have seen in the previous chapters.

Finally’s appearance at the top

of the final stanza is not going to help.

All of which suggests (another no-no)

that poems don’t need to tell us where we are

or what is soon to come.

For example, the white bowl of lemons

on a table by a window

is fine by itself

and, in conclusion, so are

seven elephants standing in the rain.

By Cole Schafer (but mostly Billy Collins).