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180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Every Day

Overview

Come full circle with 180 new, exciting poems selected and introduced by Billy Collins.

Inspired by Billy Collins’s poem-a-day program for American high schools that he began through the Library of Congress, the original Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry was a gathering of clear, contemporary poems aimed at a wide audience. In 180 More, Collins continues his ambitious mission of exposing readers of all ages to the best of today’s poetry. ...

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Overview

Come full circle with 180 new, exciting poems selected and introduced by Billy Collins.

Inspired by Billy Collins’s poem-a-day program for American high schools that he began through the Library of Congress, the original Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry was a gathering of clear, contemporary poems aimed at a wide audience. In 180 More, Collins continues his ambitious mission of exposing readers of all ages to the best of today’s poetry. Here are another 180 hospitable, engaging, reader-friendly poems, offering surprise and delight in a wide range of literary voices–comic, melancholy, reflective, irreverent. If poetry is the original travel literature, this anthology contains 180 vehicles ready to carry you away to unexpected places.

With poems by
Robert Bly
Carol Ann Duffy
Eamon Grennan
Mark Halliday
Jane Kenyon
David Kirby
Thomas Lux
Donna Masini
W. S. Merwin
Paul Muldoon
Carol Muske-Dukes
Vijay Seshadri
Naomi Shihab Nye
Gerald Stern
Ron Padgett
Linda Pastan
Victoria Redel
Franz Wright
Robert Wrigley and many more

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812972962
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/29/2005
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 245,334
  • Product dimensions: 5.24 (w) x 7.99 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

Billy Collins
Billy Collins
Enjoying a popularity unheard of for most poets, Billy Collins has had a remarkable late-life surge, aided by NPR exposure and his 2001 and 2002 appointments as the U.S. poet laureate. His style is engaging, conversational, funny, and surprising.

Biography

In 1985, the humorist Calvin Trillin suggested that Robert Penn Warren would never have been named Poet Laureate if he'd been known as plain Bob Warren. Trillin might be surprised at the 2002 appointment of Billy Collins -- whose laid-back name suits his open-collar-and-blue-jeans appearance, as well as his unpretentious writing style -- to a second term as U.S. Poet Laureate.

But then, Collins himself might be a little surprised. Like most poets, he toiled in obscurity for years, snowed under by rejections from small literary journals. As recently as 1997, he couldn't interest a commercial publisher in his fifth book of poems, Picnic, Lightning. But word of mouth and Collins' appearances on National Public Radio helped push sales of the book, published by the University of Pittsburgh Press, far beyond the usual figures for a volume of poetry from a university press. A previous book was reissued, Random House signed him up for a three-book deal, and Collins was on his way to fame and comparative fortune.

Why is Collins so popular now? One term often applied to his work is "accessible," though he prefers the term "hospitable." "I think accessible just means that the reader can walk into the poem without difficulty," he explained to Elizabeth Farnsworth on the PBS NewsHour. Collins is also very funny -- and that, too, is inviting. For Collins, anything from the barking of a neighbor's dog to the egg-salad stain on a copy of The Catcher in the Rye can be a fit subject for a poem.

But Collins sees accessibility and humor as means to an end. The purpose of a poem, he believes, is to take the reader on an imaginative journey. "Poetry is my cheap means of transportation," he told a New York Times interviewer. "By the end of the poem the reader should be in a different place from where he started. I would like him to be slightly disoriented at the end, like I drove him outside of town at night and dropped him off in a cornfield."

Critics have sometimes charged that Collins' language is too prosaic, his middle-class milieu too smugly comfortable. But many of his contemporaries, including John Updike, Gerald Stern and Edward Hirsch, have admired his originality, wit and intelligence. As Richard Howard put it: "Mr. Collins is funny without being silly, moving without being silly, and brainy without being silly. If only he were silly, we should know how to 'place' him. But he is merely -- merely! -- funny, moving, brainy. That will have to do."

Good To Know

Collins grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens, where his electrician father sometimes brought home issues of Poetry magazine from an office on Wall Street. "He wanted me to go to Harvard Business School," Collins said in a Hope magazine interview. "If he had known the effect of those magazines, he probably would have burned them."

As Poet Laureate, Collins launched a well-received program called Poetry 180, which encourages high schools to read a contemporary poem together each day, preferably by having a student, teacher or staff member read the poem aloud.

Collins is a professor of English at Lehman College of the City University of New York. He lives in Somers, N.Y.

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    1. Also Known As:
      William James Collins
    2. Hometown:
      Somers, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 22, 1941
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Holy Cross College, 1963; Ph.D. in Romantic poetry, University of California at Riverside, 1971

Read an Excerpt

First Hour
Sharon Olds

That hour, I was most myself. I had shrugged

my mother slowly off, I lay there

taking my first breaths, as if

the air of the room was blowing me

like a bubble. All I had to do

was go out along the line of my gaze and back,

out and back, on gravity’s silk, the

pressure of the air a caress, smelling on my

self her creamy blood. The air

was softly touching my skin and tongue,

entering me and drawing forth the little

sighs I did not know as mine.

I was not afraid. I lay in the quiet

and looked, and did the wordless thought,

my mind was getting its oxygen

direct, the rich mix by mouth.

I hated no one. I gazed and gazed,

and everything was interesting, I was

free, not yet in love, I did not

belong to anyone, I had drunk

no milk, yet—no one had

my heart. I was not very human. I did not

know there was anyone else. I lay

like a god, for an hour, then they came for me,

and took me to my mother.

The Alien
Greg Delanty

I’m back again scrutinising the Milky Way

of your ultrasound, scanning the dark

matter, the nothingness, that now the heads say

is chockablock with quarks & squarks,

gravitons & gravitini, photons & photinos. Our sprout,

who art there inside the spacecraft

of your ma, the time capsule of this printout,

hurling & whirling towards us, it’s all daft

on this earth. Our alien who art in the heavens,

our Martian, our little green man, we’re anxious

to make contact, to ask divers questions

about the heavendom you hail from, to discuss

the whole shebang of the beginning&end,

the pre-big-bang untime before you forget the why

and lie of thy first place. And, our friend,

to say Welcome, that we mean no harm, we’d die

for you even, that we pray you’re not here

to subdue us, that we’d put away

our ray guns, missiles, attitude and share

our world with you, little big head, if only you stay.

Waking with Russell
Don Paterson

Whatever the difference is, it all began

the day we woke up face-to-face like lovers

and his four-day-old smile dawned on him again,

possessed him, till it would not fall or waver;

and I pitched back not my old hard-pressed grin

but his own smile, or one I’d rediscovered.

Dear son, I was mezzo del’ cammin

and the true path was as lost to me as ever

when you cut in front and lit it as you ran.

See how the true gift never leaves the giver:

returned and redelivered, it rolled on

until the smile poured through us like a river.

How fine, I thought, this waking amongst men!

I kissed your mouth and pledged myself forever.

The Floating Rib
Lucia Perillo

Because a woman had eaten something

when a man told her not to. Because the man

who told her not to had made her

from another man’s bones. That’s why

men badgered the heart-side of her chest,

knowing she could not give the bone back, knowing

she would always owe them that one bone.

And you could see how older girls who knew

their catechism armed themselves against it:

with the pike end of teasing combs

they scabbarded in pocketbooks that clashed

against the jumper’s nightwatch plaid.

In the girl’s bathroom, you watched them

wield the spike in dangerous proximity to their eyes,

shepherding the bangs through which they peered

like cheetahs in an upside-downward-growing grass.

Then they’d mouth the words to “Runaway”

while they ran white lipstick round their lips,

white to announce they had no blood

so any wound would leave no trace, as Eve’s

having nothing more to lose must have made

lll her fearless. What was weird was how soon

the ordinary days started running past them

like a river, how willingly they entered it

and how they rose up on the other side. Tamed,

or god no . . . your mother: ready to settle

with whoever found the bone under her blouse

and give it over, and make a life out of the getting

back.

TO THE DUST OF THE ROAD
W. S. Merwin

And in the morning you are up again

with the way leading through you for a while

longer if the wind is motionless when

the cars reach where the asphalt ends a mile

or so below the main road and the wave

you rise into is different every time

and you are one with it until you have

made your way up to the top of your climb

and brightened in that moment of that day

and then you turn as when you rose before

in fire or wind from the ends of the earth

to pause here and you seem to drift away

on into nothing to lie down once more

until another breath brings you to birth

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