Nine Horses

( 8 )

Overview

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 ...

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Nine Horses

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Overview

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.

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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

KLIATT
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
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375755200
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/14/2003
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 445,136
  • Product dimensions: 5.16 (w) x 7.99 (h) x 0.40 (d)

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.

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

i.

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?

Velocity
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.

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Table of Contents

Night Letter to the Reader 5
The Country 9
Velocity 11
"More Than a Woman" 14
Aimless Love 17
Absence 19
Royal Aristocrat 21
Paris 23
Istanbul 26
Love 29
Languor 31
Obituaries 33
Today 39
Ave Atque Vale 41
Roadside Flowers 43
As if to Demonstrate an Eclipse 45
Trompe L'Oeil 47
Creatures 49
Tipping Point 51
Birthday 53
Albany 55
Study in Orange and White 58
Rooms 61
Nine Horses 63
Litany 69
The Return of the Key 71
The Listener 73
The Literary Life 75
The Great Walter Pater 77
By a Swimming Pool Outside Siracusa 79
Bermuda 81
Ignorance 84
Death in New Orleans, a Romance 86
Air Piano 88
Drawing 90
To My Patron 91
Writing in the Afterlife 93
The Parade 97
The Only Day in Existence 99
No Time 101
Balsa 102
Elk River Falls 105
Earth 106
Colorado 108
Lying in Bed in the Dark, I Silently Address the Birds of Arizona 109
Bodhidharma 110
Rain 112
Christmas Sparrow 115
The Stare 117
Suprise 118
Poetry 119
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 8 )
Rating Distribution

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(4)

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 9 of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 9, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Readable

    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

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2002

    this is why he is laureate

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2002

    fantastic!!!

    this is the best thing I have read in a long time! It moves me to write--my new muse!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2012

    Sample, NOT

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2003

    Excellent Work

    The poetry in this book is absolutly awesome. The author is on his way to greatness.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2003

    Kinda bland

    Some writings kinda week, but overall good book. Would really prefer more emotional poetry.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2002

    THE WIZARD OF PELUCID

    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?

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 – 9 of 8 Customer Reviews

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