A Billy Collins poem is instantly recognizable. "Using simple, understandable language," notes USA Today, the two-term U.S. Poet Laureate "captures ordinary life-its pleasure, its discontents, its moments of sadness and of joy." His everyman approach to writing resonates with readers everywhere and generates fans who would otherwise never give a poem a second glance.
Now, in this stunning new collection, Collins touches on a greater array of subjects-love, death, solitude, youth, and aging-delving deeper than ever before. Ballistics comes at the reader full force with moving and playful takes on life. Drawing inspiration from the world around him and from such poetic forebears as Robert Frost, Paul Valery, and eleventh-century poet Liu Yung, Collins drolly captures the essence of an ordinary afternoon:
All I do these drawn-out days
is sit in my kitchen at Pheasant Ridge
where there are no pheasants to be seen
and, last time I looked, no ridge.
Collins reflects on his solitude:
If I lived across the street from myself
and I was sitting in the dark
on the edge of the bed
at five o'clock in the morning,
I might be wondering what the light
was doing on in my study at this hour.
And he meditates on the effects of love:
It turns everything into a symbol
like a storm that breaks loose
in the final chapter of a long novel.
And it may add sparkle to a morning,
or deepen a night
when the bed is ringed with fire.
As Collins strives to find truth in the smallest detail, readers are given a fascinating, intimate glimpse into the heart and soul of a brilliantly thoughtful man and exemplary poet.
Praise for Billy Collins
"Collins reveals the unexpected within the ordinary. He peels back the surface of the humdrum to make the moment new."
-The Christian Science Monitor
"Billy Collins demonstrates why he is one of our best poets, with his appealing trademark style: a self-deprecating charm, playful wit and unexpected imaginative leaps."
-San Antonio Express-News
"By careful observation, Collins spins comic gold from the dross of quotidian suburban life. . . . Chipping away at the surface, he surprises you by scraping to the wood underneath, to some deeper truth."
"A poet of plentitude, irony, and Augustan grace."
-The New Yorker
"It is difficult not to be charmed by Collins, and that in itself is a remarkable literary accomplishment."
-The New York Review of Books
"Clever, subtle and engaging."
The latest from former U.S. laureate Collins (The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems) again shows the deft, often self-mocking touch that has made him one of America's bestselling poets: while this volume hardly breaks new ground, it should fly off the shelves. To his jokes about, and against, his own poetizing, Collins now adds two new emphases: on life in France, where (to judge by the poems) he has spent some time and (more pervasively) a preoccupation with the end of life. Collins is never carefree, but he is, as always, accessible and high-spirited, making light even when telling himself that nothing lasts: Vermont, Early November finds the poet in his kitchen, wringing his signature charm from the eternal carpe diem theme, determined to seize firmly/ the second Wednesday of every month. For Collins, such are his stock in trade, humorous and serious at once. His tongue-in-cheek assault on the gloom and doubt in our poetry is his only remedy for the loneliness that (even for him) shadows all poems: this is a poem, not a novel, he laments, and the only characters here are you and I,/ alone in an imaginary room/ which will disappear after a few more lines. (Sept.)
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September 08, 2008
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