Bill Hollands: “The Paradox of Beauty in the Midst of Suffering”

Photographers Unknown, The Paradox of Beauty in the Midst of Suffering

I sit in the darkened theater and watch
images of naked men on the screen. Is it wrong
to be turned on by a marble sculpture
from the Hellenistic period? Do you know
the story? Laocoön warned the Trojans
about Greeks bearing gifts (see also
Trojan Horse) and the gods sent big snakes
to punish Laocoön and his sons. The professor
drones on but the message is clear: Sons suffer
for the sins of their father. I, on the other hand,
can’t take my eyes off the son on the right.
He looks at his father and his brother and to me
his expression is not Help but I’m out. Meanwhile,
he slyly slips the coiled snake from around
his ankle as if he’s shedding a wet
Speedo. I return to my dorm room
and geek out. Apparently, my guy
wasn’t even connected to the others
when they unearthed the sculpture’s fragments.
Plus, in another version of the story, that son
escapes the snake’s jaws altogether. And,
anyway, the whole thing might just be a fraud.
One theory goes that it’s a forgery by Michelangelo
who passed it off as an antiquity for cash
and you know which son he had his eye on. So,
on the test when the professor asks about the paradox
of beauty in the midst of suffering
I write about the liberated son
and take my B and call it good.

Bill Hollands, Escape

Born and raised in Miami, Bill Hollands is an American poet and educator. He graduated from Williams College in Massachusetts, where he studied under poets Louise Glück and Lawrence Raab. As a Herchel Smith Fellow, Hollands studied at Cambridge University’s Emmanuel College, where he earned a Masters Degree in English. Continuing his studies, he earned a third degree at the University of Michigan. 

Hollands was the first internet librarian for the New York Public Library and had worked for many years on Microsoft’s Encarta Encyclopedia, a multi-media digital information source. He is currently a teacher and poet in Seattle, where he resides with his husband and their child.

Bill Hollands’s work typically consists of narrative poems, a longer form of poetry, typically told by just one narrator, that contains all story elements, including plot, characters, conflict and resolution. A narrative poem’s story is more condensed than one in prose, the exception being epic poems. 

Hollands was recently named a finalist for North American Review’s James Hearst Poetry Prize. He was also a semi-finalist in the 2020 National Poetry Month competition for his submitted works “ICYMI” and “The Crocodile Pit at the Serpentarium, Miami, Florida”. Hollands was a recent contributor to the 3Elements Literary Review; his poem “Parrot Jungle, Polaroid, Miami, May 1981” appeared in the Summer 2020, Issue No. 27.

Bill Hollands’s poems have appeared in both online and print publications including The Summerset Review, PageBoy, Rattle, Hawai’i Pacific Review, The American journal of Poetry, The North American Review, and the online publication DIAGRAM, among others.

Bill Hollands’s poetry site can be located at: https://billhollandspoetry.com

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