Ode to Billy Collins, Part 2

I am poetry impaired.   Of course you already know that if you memorized my column from January 27, 2009, when I sang the praises of Billy Collin’s poetry collection, Ballistics,

Now I am back to do the same for Horoscopes For the Dead, his latest collection of poetry.  Billy Collins is a former Poet Laureate of the United States.  His very accessible poetry is something I actually look forward to reading which amazes me because I normally have such a resistance to anything related to poetry. 

Last time around I said, “His poems appear to me to be brilliant short essays with odd formatting.  Because he so approachable in his style, he makes poetry a delight.”  I would add that his arch sense of humor helps carry very important themes to the reader without a great deal of pain.   His wit is impeccable and here is an example from Poem on the Three Hundredth Anniversary of the Trinity School:

I must have picked up the wrong pen,

The one that had no poem lurking in its vein of ink.

And from At the Home of the Baroness of Pembrokeshire comes

If one of the roses in the Chinese vase

is now less aromatic that the others,

blame it on the furtive sniff I took.

How about a concept of Hell that mixes mattress shopping with Dante’s Inferno?  If you want a giggle, read Feedback for its message of the futility of popularity.

Collins can also be spot-on serious and the title poem of this collection, while not quite the equal to my all-time favorite, The Dead, is still a very sad poem full of concern about the consequences of living a full life.

Once again I urge anyone using poetry for a book discussion group to turn to this wonderful writer.



About the Author:

Gary Niebuhr is the author of Make Mine a Mystery (2003), Caught up in Crime (2009), and other readers' guides to mystery and detective fiction. He was a Booklist contributor from 2008-2014.

1 Comment on "Ode to Billy Collins, Part 2"

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  1. shavers@crc.losrios.edu' Shelley says:

    You’re not poetry impaired! You’re just looking for something different, which some of us are trying to write. Collins is always fun to read….

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