Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems

ISBN: 0375755195
ISBN 13: 9780375755194
By: Billy Collins

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Reader's Thoughts


Billy Collins is the perfect poet for people who don't really care for poetry. He writes little stories in free verse that are accessible and often very funny. This is a collection of, as the title says, new and old poems. Some of my favorites are: Marginalia where the poet ponders the kinship he feels with people who write in the margin of books; Another Reason Why I Don't Keep a Gun in the House where the poet struggles with his ire at the neighbor's barking dog, and Passengers, his observation that the other passengers in the waiting area of the airport gate may very well be the "possible company of my death" if their plane crashes. His Introduction to Poetry mirrors my own exasperation with students who demand to be told "what the poem is about." This, and The Complete Robert Frost, are two poetry books that I pick up constantly to reread.

Heather Cox

What an outstanding collection of poetry. It grates on me to hear reviewers say, essentially, that Billy Collins is accessible yet complicated enough to be acceptable as a poet. His poetry is vivid, funny, sharp, wonderful. Why does good poetry need to be obtuse? "Another Reason Why I Don't Keep a Gun in the House," about a neighbor's dog who won't stop barking, is a riot. "Shoveling Snow with Buddha" is one of my favorite poems of all time. "Consolation" is about the writer's delight in NOT traveling this summer..."Why feed scenery into a hungry, one-eyed camera/ eager to eat the world one monument at a time?" Excellent, excellent, excellent. And then there's the "Introduction to Poetry" poem that brings be back to my days as an English Lit student, where he begs his students to "...water-ski/ across the surface of a poem/ waving at the author's name on the shore" rather than "tie the poem to a chair with rope/ and torture a confession out of it." And then for some reason, I just loved "Afternoon with Irish Cows," where the writer hears a sound so terrible he has to stop what he's doing to walk out to the stone wall "to see which one of them was being torched/ or pierced through the side with a long spear." He finds that "she was only announcing/ the large, unadulterated cowness of herself,/ pouring out the ancient apologia of her kind/ to all the green fields and the gray clouds,/ to the limestone hills and the inlet of the blue bay,/ while she regarded my head and shoulders/ above the wall with one wild, shocking eye." I'm not sure if I've ever read a better line in my life.


Unit 5 Discussion PostSailing Alone Around the Room, by America’s Poet Laureate Billy Collins is not a typical book of poetry, where readers must hunker down and seriously focus with a dictionary strapped to their side. Collins’ engrossing book can be devoured in an evening, and can even be thought of as a nice beach book because it is pleasurable and entertaining (but not meant to discount it’s ingenuity). His delivery is breezy and conversational so that before you know it, you have finished the book before you actually wanted it to end. The book’s fast and easy free verse makes you feel like you are having a one-on-one conversation with the author in an intimate setting. Collins notices the daily occurrences of life people often ignore and writes about them in vivid detail. Collins is humdrum, funny, perceptive, and somber in this collection of poems. To examine how he can change tones within one poem, let’s examine: “Another Reason Why I Don’t Keep A Gun in the House.” The poem starts out somewhat monotonous; he incorporates ordinary language and repetition: “but I can still hear him muffled under the music/barking, barking, barking.” Then suddenly, his poems hits you midstream with humor: “as if Beethoven had included a part for barking dogs” and “barking dog solo.” And finally, Collins universalizes the poem, to make a poignant observation about a famous musician, “Beethoven as an innovative genius.” This is his signature structural method for pulling us through the poem and creating a short, condensed story that evoke an array of emotions.Furthermore, Collins has a way of touching on universal themes (time’s passage, tragedy, simple joys, God, sadness, death, afterlife, grief, etc.) through commonplace situations and scenes (the beach, kitchen, library, bar, school, writer’s desk, backyard, etc.). I’ve pulled out my favorite poetic lines in the book, that I also deem thematic and universal: “There is nothing like practice to devour the hours of life” (themes: practicing art, time’s passage) - Serenade“Nothing will be as it was a few hours ago, back in the glorious past.” (themes: regret, time’s passage) – Lines Composed Over Three Thousand Miles from Tintern AbbeyCollins also describes the art of writing in new and creative metaphors, which I appreciate and adore as a writer:“Words are food thrown down on the ground for other words to eat” (themes: words are cannibalistic, greedy, always wanting more) - Workshop“The unclothed body is autobiography./Every lake is a vowel, every island a noun” (theme: words are connected and fit together; words are natural and mimic real life) – Winter SyntaxFinally, Collins uses simple language to convey complex ideas, and that’s why his poetry feels so accessible and relatable. He has tapped into a reader’s need for clarity while also stimulating curiosity. To put it plainly as Collins often does, he’s a genius.

Taryn Chase

Quickly becoming one of my favorite poets, Billy Collins has a way of stating ordinary things in an extraordinary way: he has a poem about stepping into a painting at a museum, one about a town filled with all the students he's ever taught, one trying to make sense of the lyrics of three blind mice, one about stuff people write in the margins of books... and he has some wonderful titles, too, including "another reason why I don't keep a gun in the house," taking off emily dickinson's clothes," "man listening to disc," and "shoveling snow with buddha." I can't encourage people enough to pick up a volume of this one-time US poet laureate and dive in.


Age vitam plenissime Take a walk in the parkperhaps of an evening,moonlight dancing lightlythrough the swaying branches of the willow,reflected off the water,where the heron feeds,Illuminating our path.There is a slight breezea welcome silencelater we will have a fireand listen to the music of the night.I am humbled to remember that poetry is after all everywhere. It envelopes us. It is in the words we read and those we speak to each other. It is in the very air I breathe, deep and slow. I love poetry so it seems that I was destined to find S. Penkevich’s review of this work. If you have but a moment, then leave this page at once and read his review.It is after all what brought me here.And so I sail, around the room, while bits and pieces of this cling to me. They move about my head.I am a sinner, not a scholar and rearrange them as it pleases me.They clutter my windshield and call forth my senses.I cannot seem to stop. Perhaps this is disrespectful but I think not.How easy he has made it for me to enter here,to sit down in a corner;cross my legs like his, and listen.I walk through the house reciting itand leave its letters fallingthrough the air of every room.I listen to myself saying it,then I say it without listening,then I hear it without saying it.And later when I say it to you in the dark,you are the bell,and I am the tongue of the bell, ringing youBut today I am staying home,standing at one window, then another,or putting on a jacket and wandering around outsideor sitting in a chairwatching the trees full of light- green budsunder the low hood of the sky.And when I begin to turn slowlyI can feel the whole house turning with me, rotating free of the earth.the sun and the moon in all the windowsmove, too, with the tips of my fingersthis is the wheel I just inventedto roll through the rest of my lifeWhy do we bother with the rest of the day,the swale of the afternoon,the sudden dip into evening,This is the best-throwing off the light covers,feet on the cold floor,and buzzing around the houseUntil the night makes me realizethat this place where they pace and danceunder colored lights,is made of nothing but autumn leaves,red, yellow, gold,waiting for a sudden gust of windto scatter it allinto the dark spacesbeyond these late- night, practically empty streets.Then I remove my flesh and hang it over a chair.I slide it off my bones like a silken garment.Such is life in this pavilionof paper and inkwhere a cup of tea is cooling,where the windows darken then fill with light.A book like this always has a wayof soothing the nerves,quieting the riotous surf of informationthat foams around my waist.But it is hard to speak of these thingshow the voices of light enter the bodyand begin to recite their storieshow the earth holds us painfully againstits breast made of humus and brambleshow we who will soon be gone regardthe entities that continue to returngreener than ever, spring water flowingthrough a meadow and the shadows of cloudspassing over the hills and the groundwhere we stand in the tremble of thoughttaking the vast outside into ourselves.Still, let me know before you set out,come knock on my doorand I will walk with you as far as the garden.My fingertips thirsty, absorb this ink and intoxicated,leave my stain all over these pages. Thank you Billy!All of the words in italics are Billy’s.They have moved themselves around shamelessly to feed my unbridled pleasure.

D. Pow

I am a book addict. I own thousands of them. They fill most rooms of my house, many closets, my garage. They are stacked high by my bedside, on the hamper in the upstairs bathroom, in the backseat of my car. I take a book with me most places I go. I buy books all the time but I have gotten a little less self-indulgent in my buying habits; I almost never buy hardback and I never ever buy full-price. Probably the next lesson I should learn in my book buying habits is never buy while partially or fully inebriated. I bought this book after I had three pints of Guinness and an Irish Car Bomb at my office Christmas Party. Basically, I didn’t want to drive home shit-faced so I ambled over from the BJ’s Pizzeria to the mall across the parking lot. They had a fairly big B. Dalton there which happened to be going out of business. I’m going to miss all the mall book stores, they were charmless and empty of any idiosyncrasy in taste or selection but they were bookstores damn it and that beats any teen clothing shop or boutique that will take their places. So, I’m a little buzzed and the books are all forty percent off. Two criteria for book purchasing together at once; I guarantee I’m going to walk out of there with something. I must’ve perused those aisles for forty frigging minutes, I swear to frigging God. It was like the bookstore of the damned. Every section was filled with the most obvious, trite and commercial books you can imagine. I guess my drunken fingers probably picked up a few gems, my addled brain read a few lines worthy of a sparked interest, but I couldn’t come across that one grailic purchase that combined the right price, readability and sexiness of design. Finally, when I was about ready to piss out the last of my Jamison’s and Guinness I stumbled across the most chicken shit little poetry section this side of George W. Bush’s personal library. And I grabbed Billy Collins. And it was not the road less taken. And it was not money well-spent. And, lamentably, it was not returnable. I would’ve been better off going to the food court and downing a chili dog or a basket of fries. Clogging my arteries, torquing my bowels and earning the disapprobation of my vegetarian buddies; I would’ve been better of going to Old Navy and getting a sweater that frays after three washes. As my two year old son, Brendan, has been known to say(and do), Billy Collins is ‘yucky poo poo.’I read poetry for a number of reasons and expect a number of things from it. I read it because I think that repeated exposure to rhythmic and metrical finesse will help me in my own halting attempts to develop some music with my writing. I read it because at its best poetry can reduce a particular event, thought or sentiment to the bones, to the bare mineral soil, to the most basic irreducible element of a thing and thusly reflect that thing back to you in a wholly new light, empty of previous associations and mental baggage. Sometimes poetry can be visionary, suffusing the everyday with a sense of the sacred and ineffable through metrical beauty, dream-like imagery and an attempt to wrestle that ultimate Will-O-Wisp, God, onto the stage and into the conversation. Rumi does this and Blake, Yeats at his best and Ginsberg when he wasn’t being phallocentric. There are other great poets, Mary Oliver, Heaney and Ted Hughes whose understanding, embrace and keen observation of the natural world brings another kind of sacred to the forefront. The beauty, strangeness, repellent aliveness and tutelary function of our animal brothers and sisters and the sublime terror of the belching, barking flame-cored earth itself. Collins succeeds on none of these levels. His poetry does possess a certain craft, the art of a man who has obviously honed his style over the years. But the style is boring, empty of technical innovation. His subject matters are worse, he uses events of the daily, mundane and suburban nature and then fails repeatedly, sometimes even in a single poem, to say anything interesting, to say it in an interesting manner or to offer anything resembling a coherent and unique world view. It’s like reading USA Today in stanza form. Page, after tortuous page, it continues. I tried like hell to find some poem I loved here, some sort of glimmer of a deeper world or verbal pyrotechnics that offered some vestige of joy, but nothing. He is the former Poet Laureate of the United States. During the Bush Administration. Perfectly fitting in its way, a poet of a time of the devalued tongue and the age of advertising and double speak. Unmitigated crap. Joyless and empty of anything other than the immediate moment, firmly ensconced in the values, insights and aesthetics of its day.


My philosophically minded friends and I have a debate about Billy Collins' poetry. They insist that the attempt to chronicle the everyday in a meaningful way can be done in a deeper, more profound manner. They find Collins lacking in this way. This is probably true, but not Collins' main point, I think.Still, I think, after rereading this book, that Collins becomes more profound with time. I am still unsure if this is my projection into the poem because I *want* these poems to be more profound or not. Nonetheless, I can't help liking so much of what he writes here, even if it can be rightly said, as my aforementioned friends insist, that some of these poems are thin on theme.Anyway, here's a lovely image that closes the poem 'Bar Time':No wonder such thoughtless pleasure derivesfrom tending the small fire of a cigarette, from observing this glass of whiskey and ice,the cold rust I am sipping,or from having an eye on the street outsidewhen Ordinary Time slouches past in a topcoat,rain runing off the brim of his hat,the late edition like a flag in his pocket.


ForgetfulnessThe name of the author is the first to gofollowed obediently by the title, the plot,the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novelwhich suddenly becomes one you have never read,never even heard of,as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbordecided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,to a little fishing village where there are no phones.Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbyeand watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.It has floated away down a dark mythological riverwhose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,well on your own way to oblivion where you will join thosewho have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.No wonder you rise in the middle of the nightto look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.No wonder the moon in the window seems to have driftedout of a love poem that you used to know by heart. NostalgiaRemember the 1340s? We were doing a dance called the Catapult.You always wore brown, the color craze of the decade,and I was draped in one of those capes that were popular,the ones with unicorns and pomegranates in needlework.Everyone would pause for beer and onions in the afternoon,and at night we would play a game called “Find the Cow.”Everything was hand-lettered then, not like today.Where has the summer of 1572 gone? Brocade and sonnetmarathons were the rage. We used to dress up in the flagsof rival baronies and conquer one another in cold rooms of stone.Out on the dance floor we were all doing the Strugglewhile your sister practiced the Daphne all alone in her room.We borrowed the jargon of farriers for our slang.These days language seems transparent, a badly broken code.The 1790s will never come again. Childhood was big.People would take walks to the very tops of hillsand write down what they saw in their journals without speaking.Our collars were high and our hats were extremely soft.We would surprise each other with alphabets made of twigs.It was a wonderful time to be alive, or even dead.I am very fond of the period between 1815 and 1821.Europe trembled while we sat still for our portraits.And I would love to return to 1901 if only for a moment,time enough to wind up a music box and do a few dance steps,or shoot me back to 1922 or 1941, or at least let merecapture the serenity of last month when we pickedberries and glided through afternoons in a canoe.Even this morning would be an improvement over the present.I was in the garden then, surrounded by the hum of beesand the Latin names of flowers, watching the early lightflash off the slanted windows of the greenhouseand silver the limbs on the rows of dark hemlocks.As usual, I was thinking about the moments of the past,letting my memory rush over them like waterrushing over the stones on the bottom of a stream.I was even thinking a little about the future, that placewhere people are doing a dance we cannot imagine,a dance whose name we can only guess.WorkshopI might as well begin by saying how much I like the title. It gets me right away because I’m in a workshop now so immediately the poem has my attention,like the Ancient Mariner grabbing me by the sleeve.And I like the first couple of stanzas,the way they establish this mode of self-pointingthat runs through the whole poemand tells us that words are food thrown down on the ground for other words to eat. I can almost taste the tail of the snake in its own mouth,if you know what I mean.But what I’m not sure about is the voice,which sounds in places very casual, very blue jeans, but other times seems standoffish,professorial in the worst sense of the wordlike the poem is blowing pipe smoke in my face. But maybe that’s just what it wants to do.What I did find engaging were the middle stanzas, especially the fourth one.I like the image of clouds flying like lozenges which gives me a very clear picture.And I really like how this drawbridge operator just appears out of the bluewith his feet up on the iron railingand his fishing pole jigging—I like jigging—a hook in the slow industrial canal below.I love slow industrial canal below. All those l’s.Maybe it’s just me,but the next stanza is where I start to have a problem. I mean how can the evening bump into the stars? And what’s an obbligato of snow?Also, I roam the decaffeinated streets.At that point I’m lost. I need help.The other thing that throws me off,and maybe this is just me,is the way the scene keeps shifting around. First, we’re in this big aerodromeand the speaker is inspecting a row of dirigibles, which makes me think this could be a dream. Then he takes us into his garden,the part with the dahlias and the coiling hose, though that’s nice, the coiling hose,but then I’m not sure where we’re supposed to be. The rain and the mint green light,that makes it feel outdoors, but what about this wallpaper? Or is it a kind of indoor cemetery?There’s something about death going on here.In fact, I start to wonder if what we have here is really two poems, or three, or four, or possibly none.But then there’s that last stanza, my favorite.This is where the poem wins me back,especially the lines spoken in the voice of the mouse.I mean we’ve all seen these images in cartoons before,but I still love the details he useswhen he’s describing where he lives.The perfect little arch of an entrance in the baseboard, the bed made out of a curled-back sardine can, the spool of thread for a table.I start thinking about how hard the mouse had to work night after night collecting all these thingswhile the people in the house were fast asleep, and that gives me a very strong feeling,a very powerful sense of something.But I don’t know if anyone else was feeling that. Maybe that was just me.Maybe that’s just the way I read it.IdiomaticIt is a big question to pose so early in the morning or “in the light woven by birds” as the Estonians say, but still I must ask what is my place in life? my “seat on the invisible train”, as they say in Hungary. I mean I am just sitting here in a lawn chair listening to a thrush, “the little entertainer of the woods”, as the Swiss call him, while out there in the world mobs of people are rushing over bridges in and out of cities? Vegetables grow heavy in their fields, clouds fly across the “face of the earth” as we call it in English, and sometimes rockets lift off in the distance – and I mean that quite literally, “from the top of the table” as the Portuguese have it, real rockets rising from the horizon, or “the big line if you’re an Australian, leaving behind rich gowns of exhaust smoke, long, smooth trajectories, and always the ocean below, “the water machine” as the South Sea islanders put it – everything takes place right on schedule, “by the clock of the devil”, as our grandparents were fond of saying. And still here I sit with my shirt off, the dog at my side, daydreaming – “juggling balls of cotton”, as they like to say in France.


While I’m very familiar with Collin’s work—as a poet, performer and teacher—but it was rather fun to read a collection of work by him. I was struck by his humor, which for some reason became much more obvious when observed against his other poems of more serious tones. As I’ve been thinking a lot about the poetic voice of a novel in verse, I loved the poem “Workshop” in general and the fourth stanza in particular where he explores words and sounds in a kind of tongue-in-cheek way: “his fishing pole jigging—I like jigging—/a hook in the slow industrial canal below./I love slow industrial canal below. All those l’s.” In poetry—and by extension verse—words themselves don’t have to be complicated or even unique, but how they are used together and to invoke feeling give them power.


I gave this book three separate sittings and though I did enjoy reading it, I could not shake the feeling that Collins is a bit too straightforward. I understand his widespread appeal - he makes poetry manageable, accessible, easy - but I think he does so at some expense. Critics quoted in the front of the book described his "irresistable charm" - but I think that a great deal of that charm is not so much the sublimeness of his poems, but the fact that nearly every person on earth - secretly, deep down - wants to be a poet and the ease and simplicity of Collins' poems make them think that maybe their own writings are worth a little more than they ever supposed. It is no doubt a good thing that he has - I'm sure - inspired many tobegin reading poetry or to even begin taking more seriously their own writing.I also felt, though, that his own voice - his ego - was ever-present and much too loud. He strikes me as the type that is quite enamored with himself and I think that that is part of why his storylines felt so overt to me.All in all - it is merely a matter of personal preference. I can appreciate his meter and the unquestionable strength of his creativity. He can take the mundane and banal and send them off into some other realm that is full of imagination and fantasy. And he makes the trip fun. But it felt a little like the science fiction form of poetry - and science fiction is something for which I've never been able to acquire a taste.

Stacy Bender

the lanyard The other day as I was ricocheting slowly off the blue walls of this room bouncing from typewriter to piano from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor, I found myself in the "L" section of the dictionary where my eyes fell upon the word, Lanyard. No cookie nibbled by a French novelist could send one more suddenly into the past. A past where I sat at a workbench at a camp by a deep Adirondack lake learning how to braid thin plastic strips into a lanyard. A gift for my mother. I had never seen anyone use a lanyard. Or wear one, if that’s what you did with them. But that did not keep me from crossing strand over strand again and again until I had made a boxy, red and white lanyard for my mother. She gave me life and milk from her breasts, and I gave her a lanyard. She nursed me in many a sick room, lifted teaspoons of medicine to my lips, set cold facecloths on my forehead then led me out into the airy light and taught me to walk and swim and I in turn presented her with a lanyard. "Here are thousands of meals" she said, "and here is clothing and a good education." "And here is your lanyard," I replied, "which I made with a little help from a counselor." "Here is a breathing body and a beating heart, strong legs, bones and teeth and two clear eyes to read the world." she whispered. "And here," I said, "is the lanyard I made at camp." "And here," I wish to say to her now, "is a smaller gift. Not the archaic truth, that you can never repay your mother, but the rueful admission that when she took the two-toned lanyard from my hands, I was as sure as a boy could be that this useless worthless thing I wove out of boredom would be enough to make us even." (billy collins)

Peycho Kanev

Пеша с Били КолинсПървата книга на Били Колинс, която прочетох в оригинал, се казва „Изкуството на давене” (1995). Не бях чувал името му преди това. Помня как затворих последната страница и след десет минути отново отворих на първата - и започнах пак. Въпросът, който изплува в съзнанието ми, беше: „На кого, на кого ми напомня?”. Тогава не успях да си отговоря. Няколко години по-късно получих отговор от самия автор. Каза ми: „Сигурно ти напомня на Били Колинс...”През 2001 г. Били Колинс е избран от Библиотеката на Конгреса за поет лауреат на САЩ и по този начин името му се нарежда до цяла плеяда от изключителни поети, като Йосиф Бродски, Робърт Пински, Робърт Пен Уорън, Чарлс Симич и др. Но той отдавна е сред тях. В свое интервю, което дава за The Paris Review, споделя, че никога не би написал роман. Защо ли? Ето защо: Една от разликите между романиста и поета е тази, че писателят сякаш се настанява в дома ти. Искам да кажа, че за да прочетеш един роман, са ти нужни от три дни до три седмици. Представям си писателя като мой гост. Поетът е някой, който просто се появява. Вратата се отваря и ето го – поетът! Казва нещо за живота или смъртта, затваря вратата и го няма. Кой беше този маскиран мъж? Харесва ми това внезапно появяване. С други думи, не протакаш гостуването си.За мен Колинс си остава един от най-пестеливите поети, които съм чел. И в същото време, ако можем да сравним всеки голям поет с някакъв музикален инструмент - било то виола, контрабас или флейта, мисля, че най-удачното сравнение за Колинс би било симфоничният оркестър. Защото той в един момент може да звучи небесно нежно като виола д’аморе, а в следващия да избухне като Берлинската филхармония. За поети като него трудно може да се говори тихо, с половин уста. Или го четеш и се възхищаваш на всяка дума в поетичната му вселена, или не четеш поезия изобщо.И сега следва най-важното. Приканвам ви да разтворите новата стихосбирка на Били Колинс, която излезе на български от издателство „Стигмати”. Пеша през Атлантическия океан за мен е книга събитие. Тънката книжка, ако разсъждаваме с терминологията на мощта и внушението, всъщност е по-дебела и от „Антология на немската поезия.” А преводът на голямата преводачка Огняна Иванова сам по себе си е отделен поетичен шедьовър. Големият Робърт Фрост казва, че поезията е всичко онова, което се губи при превода. В този случай имаме прекрасни поетични загуби и в същото време големи преводачески постъпления, излезли изпод перото на Огняна Иванова. Много добре съм запознат със стихотворенията от тази книга в оригинал, но докато ги чета на български, усещам, че звучат още по-силно, по-звънко и мащабно. Звучат на място. На правилното си място. Това представляват големите поети. На всеки език, стъпили на твърдия фундамент на голямото изкуство, могат да преминат „Пеша през Атлантическия океан”.... А следващия път, когато в Ню Йорк отново се срещна с Били Колинс, ще си разменим нови стихове, ще четем и аз пак ще му разкажа за българската поезия. Защото ние все пак сме едно цяло. И винаги ще бъдем. А ако приемем съвременната поезия и поезията въобще като едно безкрайно състезание с времето, тогава Били Колинс винаги е имал и ще има запазено място на почетната стълбичка. „Пеша през Атлантическия океан” е поредното доказателство.Пейчо Кънев

Chase Von

I have to be honest in writing this review because that's my nature. I bought this book years ago while on active duty in the military and it was a busy time, a time made even busier because I was burning the mid night oil working on my own book. I heard about "America's Poet Laureate" Billy Collins and since that's in my vein so to speak, figured I had to check him out. For those of you who gave this book less than a five, I encourage you to read it again when you have actual time to really read it. I didn't, though I read the words front to back but I didn't really absorb what was there. I even contacted a friend and fellow poet and someone I look at as a brother and Mentor and said some of it's good, but if this is all it takes to be a "Poet Laureate" you and I are both going to be famous! In his wisdom because he's a bit older and I believe wiser he told me, "I think you're going to have to read it again brother." I didn't... I put it on the shelf and quite frankly didn't think about Billy Collins until I heard about another book he had written called, "The Trouble With Poetry." I checked that one out at the library. And loved it! Then a bell went off and I was like I of course have his other book. Friends, it was like reading a new book! Things that quite frankly went by my busy mind the first time made me feel like WOW... I get it now! An example of that is on every page to be blunt regarding my experience but here's one just to prove my point. The Lesson In the morning when I found History snoring heavily on the couch, I took down his overcoat from the rack and placed it's weight over my shoulder blades It would protect me on the cold walk into the village for milk and the paper and I figured he would not mind, not after our long conversation the night before. How unexpected his blustering anger when I returned covered with icicles, the way he rummaged through the huge pockets making sure no major battle or English queen had fallen out and become lost in the deep snow By Billy Collins From "Sailing Alone Around the Room" A busy mind or unfocused mind would say what is this about? Next page.. Maybe the next poem will be better. A mind that isn't cluttered see's exactly what this is about... History is not only always written by the victors but it is also jealously guarding of any of it being lost that supports what HIS STORY is!!! It's fine to sit there and discuss it while it's present to assure you of its lies, but let that same History be taken else where and perhaps changed, challenged or lost and you've got to reinforce the HIS STORY all over again. There's more there as well but moving on... Another brief example of that is from Walking Across The Atlantic I wait for the holiday crowd to clear the beach before stepping onto the first wave (Later it ends) But for now I try to imagine what this must look like to the fish below the bottoms of my feet appearing, disappearing Not quite as rushed, and an avid reader as well as a sponge for knowledge I get this as well. However only someone who feels as if they know things others don't know on a large scale would understand the metaphors here. And that's not to insult anyone's intelligence but often those who know what the masses do not, don't want to be in the presence of those who couldn't "Get Them" anyway. God knows how many fish are in the ocean but the semblance there tells me something as well with the last line of feet appearing, and disappearing. To sum this up, great chess players think so many moves ahead that the person who is simply responding to the last move is in many ways, like a fish inquisitively looking at something it can't fully understand but is still seeing it, all the same. (I was that proverbial fish, the first time around and I am not ashamed to admit it)... When it comes to poetry, Billy Collins truly is a worthy Poet Laureate and if your rushed or not prepared to think truly deeply, your not going to enjoy his writings. If your not rushed and like your mind challenged and stimulated your going to love it! I highly recommend this book as well as "The Trouble With Poetry" and I look forward to more works from this master of the written word! With respects Sincerely, Chase Von


America's poet laureate -- here's an example -- I haven't read everything he's written, but I've loved everything I've read! Taking Off Emily Dickinson's ClothesFirst, her tippet made of tulle,easily lifted off her shoulders and laidon the back of a wooden chair.And her bonnet,the bow undone with a light forward pull.Then the long white dress, a morecomplicated matter with mother-of-pearlbuttons down the back,so tiny and numerous that it takes foreverbefore my hands can part the fabric,like a swimmer's dividing water,and slip inside.You will want to knowthat she was standingby an open window in an upstairs bedroom,motionless, a little wide-eyed,looking out at the orchard below,the white dress puddled at her feeton the wide-board, hardwood floor.The complexity of women's undergarmentsin nineteenth-century Americais not to be waved off,and I proceeded like a polar explorerthrough clips, clasps, and moorings,catches, straps, and whalebone stays,sailing toward the iceberg of her nakedness.Later, I wrote in a notebookit was like riding a swan into the night,but, of course, I cannot tell you everything -the way she closed her eyes to the orchard,how her hair tumbled free of its pins,how there were sudden dasheswhenever we spoke.What I can tell you isit was terribly quiet in Amherstthat Sabbath afternoon,nothing but a carriage passing the house,a fly buzzing in a windowpane.So I could plainly hear her inhalewhen I undid the very tophook-and-eye fastener of her corsetand I could hear her sigh when finally it was unloosed,the way some readers sigh when they realizethat Hope has feathers,that reason is a plank,that life is a loaded gunthat looks right at you with a yellow eye.

Bryan Neuschwander

Anything to write would seem so trite--I thought:I should have stopped ata five-star rating;but here I am, crawling backwardsthrough the intersectionof brevity and wit, whereI seem to have lost my way sailing around the roomalone, looking up, re-counting the stars,as Cinderella Shockersshatter in the Final Four, grateful for Goodwill bargainsmiles during commercial breaks.

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