Picnic, Lightning

( 2 )

Overview

Over the past decade, Billy Collins has emerged as the most beloved American poet since Robert Frost, garnering critical acclaim and broad popular appeal. Annie Proulx admits, "I have never before felt possessive about a poet, but I am fiercely glad that Billy Collins is ours." John Updike proclaims his poems "consistently startling, more serious than they seem, they describe all the worlds that are and were and some others besides." This special, limited edition celebrates Billy Collins's years as U.S. Poet ...
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Picnic, Lightning

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Overview

Over the past decade, Billy Collins has emerged as the most beloved American poet since Robert Frost, garnering critical acclaim and broad popular appeal. Annie Proulx admits, "I have never before felt possessive about a poet, but I am fiercely glad that Billy Collins is ours." John Updike proclaims his poems "consistently startling, more serious than they seem, they describe all the worlds that are and were and some others besides." This special, limited edition celebrates Billy Collins's years as U.S. Poet Laureate. Picnic, Lightning -- one of the books that helped establish and secure his reputation and popularity during the 1990s -- combines humor and seriousness, wit and sublimity. His poems touch on a wide range of subjects, from jazz to death, from weather to sex, but share common ground where the mind and heart can meet. Whether reading him for the first time or the fiftieth, this collector's edition is a must-have for anyone interested in the poet the New York Times calls simply "the real thing."
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Billy Collins writes lovely poems—lovely in a way almost nobody’s since Roethke’s are. Limpid, gently and consistently startling, more serious than they seem, they describe all the worlds that are and were and some others besides.”
--John Updike

“The easy swing of Collins's lines reflect his love of jazz and his ready response to beauty; the warmth of his voice emanates from his instinct for pleasure and his propensity toward humor. . . . Collins is jazzman and Buddhist, charmer and prince.”
--Booklist

“Billy Collins writes a kind of poetry that is . . . graceful, inviting, generous-hearted, able to treat engagingly of life’s pleasures as well as its pain. . . . entering a poem by Mr. Collins is like entering a comfortable yet beautifully appointed guet room; for the time being, it will give you all that you need.”

—The Washington Times

“These are wonderful poems and he’s one of our best poets.”

—American Poet

 “Billy Collins's poetry is heartbreakingly beautiful. It is also wise, funny, and brilliant. My ten favorites keep shifting all the time. Ovid is in again; so is Billy Collins.”

—Gerald Stern

“Billy Collins, America's poet laureate, 'hits you between the eyes' with his 'twisted' take on everyday life.”

—U.S. News & World Report

“I have never before felt possessive about a poet, but I am fiercely glad that Billy Collins is ours—smart, his strings tuned and resonant, his wonderful eye looping over the things, events and ideas of the world, rueful, playful, warm-voiced, easy to love.”
—E. Annie Proulx

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822956709
  • Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Publication date: 1/29/1998
  • Series: Pitt Poetry Series
  • Pages: 104
  • Sales rank: 496,769
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Billy Collins

Billy Collins, named U.S. Poet Laureate in June 2001 and reappointed to the post in 2002, has published many collections of poetry, including  The Apple That Astonished Paris; Nine Horses; The Art of Drowning; Picnic, Lightning; Questions about Angels; and Sailing Alone Around the Room. A professor of English at Lehman College of the City University of New York, he lives in Somers, New York.

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

Table of Contents

A Portrait of the Reader with a Bowl of Cereal 3
Fishing on the Susquehanna in July 7
To a Stranger Born in Some Distant Country Hundreds of Years from Now 9
I Chop Some Parsley While Listening to Art Blakey's Version of "Three Blind Mice" 10
Afternoon with Irish Cows 12
Marginalia 14
What I Learned Today 17
Journal 20
Some Days 22
Silence 23
Picnic, Lightning 24
In the Room of a Thousand Miles 29
Morning 31
Bonsai 32
Splitting Wood 34
Shoveling Snow with Buddha 37
I Go Back to the House for a Book 39
After the Storm 41
Snow 44
Moon 46
Looking West 48
This Much I Do Remember 49
Japan 51
Victoria's Secret 55
Musee des Beaux Art Revisited 59
Lines Composed Over Three Thousand Miles from Tintern Abbey 61
Paradelle for Susan 64
Duck/Rabbit 65
Egypt 66
Home Again 68
Lines Lost Among Trees 70
The Many Faces of Jazz 72
Taking Off Emily Dickinson's Clothes 74
The Night House 79
The Death of the Hat 81
The List of Ancient Pastimes 83
Passengers 85
Serpentine 87
Reincarnation and You 89
Jazz and Nature 91
And His Sextet 94
Where I Live 96
My Life 98
Aristotle 100
Acknowledgments 103
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2001

    Probably the best poetry book I ever read

    yes, I thoroughly enjoyed this title, I recommend it, Billy Collins is a natural, a gifted writer, his insights are penetrating.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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