Nine Horses

Nine Horses

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by Billy Collins

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In Nine Horses, Billy Collins, America’s Poet Laureate for 2001–2003, continues his delicate negotiation between the clear and the mysterious, the comic and the elegiac. The poems in this collection reach dazzling heights while being firmly grounded in the everyday. Traveling by train, lying on a beach, and listening to jazz on the radio are the seemingly


In Nine Horses, Billy Collins, America’s Poet Laureate for 2001–2003, continues his delicate negotiation between the clear and the mysterious, the comic and the elegiac. The poems in this collection reach dazzling heights while being firmly grounded in the everyday. Traveling by train, lying on a beach, and listening to jazz on the radio are the seemingly ordinary activities whose hidden textures are revealed by Collins’s poetic eye. With clarity, precision, and enviable wit, Collins transforms those moments we too often take for granted into brilliant feats of creative imagination. Nine Horses is a poetry collection to savor and to share.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A poet of plentitude, irony, and Augustan grace.”
—The New Yorker

“A sort of poet not seen since Robert Frost.”
—The Boston Globe

“It is difficult not to be charmed by Collins, and that in itself is a remarkable literary accomplishment.”
—The New York Review of Books

“One appeal of the typical Collins poem is that it’s less able to help you memorize it than to help you remember,
for a little while anyway, your own life.”
—The New York Times Book Review

American Poet Laureate (2001-3) Collins is justly celebrated for the beguiling simplicity of his style and the depth he can reach with poems that are remarkably accessible for a huge range of reading tastes and skills. This latest collection is no exception. It's handsome and slim, designed with large type and soothing white space, inviting to hold in the hand, too. If there's one good poet writing today that can turn YAs on to poetry, it is Billy Collins. KLIATT Codes: SA*-Exceptional book, recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2002, Random House, 120p., Ages 15 to adult.
— Daniel Levinson

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.16(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.40(d)

Read an Excerpt


The Country
I wondered about you when you told me never to leave a box of wooden, strike-anywhere matches lying around the house because the mice

might get into them and start a fire.
But your face was absolutely straight when you twisted the lid down on the round tin where the matches, you said, are always stowed.

Who could sleep that night?
Who could whisk away the thought of the one unlikely mouse padding along a cold water pipe

behind the floral wallpaper gripping a single wooden match between the needles of his teeth?
Who could not see him rounding a corner,

the blue tip scratching against a rough-hewn beam,
the sudden flare, and the creature for one bright, shining moment suddenly thrust ahead of his time—

now a fire-starter, now a torchbearer in a forgotten ritual, little brown druid illuminating some ancient night.
Who could fail to notice,

lit up in the blazing insulation,
the tiny looks of wonderment on the faces of his fellow mice, onetime inhabitants of what once was your house in the country?

In the club car that morning I had my notebook open on my lap and my pen uncapped,
looking every inch the writer right down to the little writer’s frown on my face,

but there was nothing to write about except life and death and the low warning sound of the train whistle.

I did not want to write about the scenery that was flashing past, cows spread over a pasture,
hay rolled up meticulously—
things you see once and will never see again.

But I kept my pen moving by drawing over and over again the face of a motorcyclist in profile—

for no reason I can think of—
a biker with sunglasses and a weak chin,
leaning forward, helmetless,
his long thin hair trailing behind him in the wind.

I also drew many lines to indicate speed,
to show the air becoming visible as it broke over the biker’s face

the way it was breaking over the face of the locomotive that was pulling me toward Omaha and whatever lay beyond Omaha for me and all the other stops to make

before the time would arrive to stop for good.
We must always look at things from the point of view of eternity,

the college theologians used to insist,
from which, I imagine, we would all appear to have speed lines trailing behind us as we rush along the road of the world,

as we rush down the long tunnel of time—
the biker, of course, drunk on the wind,
but also the man reading by a fire,

speed lines coming off his shoulders and his book,
and the woman standing on a beach studying the curve of horizon,
even the child asleep on a summer night,

speed lines flying from the posters of her bed,
from the white tips of the pillowcases,
and from the edges of her perfectly motionless body.

From the Hardcover edition.

What People are saying about this

James Patterson
It is communication that touches your heart, and your mind, and your funny bone.

Meet the Author

Billy Collins is the author of six collections of poetry, including Sailing Alone Around the Room; Questions About Angels; The Art of Drowning; and Picnic, Lightning. He is a Distinguished Professor of English at Lehman College of the City University of New York. Collins is the Poet Laureate of the United States.

From the Hardcover edition.

Brief Biography

Somers, New York
Date of Birth:
March 22, 1941
Place of Birth:
New York, New York
B.A., Holy Cross College, 1963; Ph.D. in Romantic poetry, University of California at Riverside, 1971

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Nine Horses 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
RevZak More than 1 year ago
So many people do not like poetry because they feel it is too distant and difficult. Metaphors are unclear, one thing means another, images aren't concrete. You've heard the complaints. Billy Collins transcends all that. He could be one of the most accessible poets I've read yet he is not literal nor is he condescending. Reading these poems is a pleasure. Rev.Zak
Guest More than 1 year ago
Billy Collins is the everyman's poet. Regardless of whether or not he'll be remembered a hundred years from now, and regardless of some people's opinion of the content of his verse, he is a good poet. He is one of the few who successfully use humor in his poems. His poems are easy to understand, but still have a literary backing to them. You don't have to have a doctorate in English to understand what he writes, but you can tell Collins is intelligent and well-read. You find yourself chuckling at some poems, and many times wishing you had come up with a phrase or an idea he uses. Read this collection (or his new and selected) and you'll understand why he has the popularity he does.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The sample had not one single sample of the poetry, just the first 11 pages of the book, BEFORE the content of the book started. Not amusing. I like this poet's work, and may buy this book anyway, but from a bricks and mortar store so I can ACTUALLY sample the content.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this is the best thing I have read in a long time! It moves me to write--my new muse!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
A solid collection sure to entertain. Odd note: curious lack of "jazz" poems, a subject Billy Collins has written about exuberantly in earlier collections. Could some editor at Random House have suggested their reduction?
Guest More than 1 year ago
The poetry in this book is absolutly awesome. The author is on his way to greatness.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Some writings kinda week, but overall good book. Would really prefer more emotional poetry.