“Collins reveals the unexpected within the ordinary. He peels back the surface of the humdrum to make the moment new.”
–The Christian Science Monitor
“Billy Collins demonstrates why he is one of our best poets, with his appealing trademark style: a self-deprecating charm, playful wit and unexpected imaginative leaps.”
–San Antonio Express-News
“By careful observation, Collins spins comic gold from the dross of quotidian suburban life. . . . Chipping away at the surface, he surprises you by scraping to the wood underneath, to some deeper truth.”
“A poet of plentitude, irony, and Augustan grace.”
–The New Yorker
“It is difficult not to be charmed by Collins, and that in itself is a remarkable literary accomplishment.”
–The New York Review of Books
“Clever, subtle and engaging.”
"It may add sparkle to a morning, / or deepen a night / when the bed is ringed with fire." For poet Billy Collins, poetry, like love, is a transfiguring force in a world already bristling with meaning. In this collection of verse, the former U.S. poet laureate again disarms us with his spontaneity and daring. In his title piece, he writes of a stop-action photograph of a bullet that had just passed through a book, "the pages bulging with the force." An apt metaphor, one might say, for the suddenness and impact of Collins's own poetry.
The teasing, buoyant images in Ballistics are firmly anchored in visions of too-quiet mornings, droplets of water, cold marble and bare light bulbs. But he now writes, more simply and assuredly than he used to, about the flights of imagination that keep melancholy at bay…Though Ballistics is not the striving work of a man angling to become the United States' poet laureate (2001-3) or New York State's (2004-6), it glows with the confidence of a writer who has been there, done that and been made fully aware of his work's power to delight.
The New York Times
The latest from former U.S. laureate Collins (The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems) again shows the deft, often self-mocking touch that has made him one of America's bestselling poets: while this volume hardly breaks new ground, it should fly off the shelves. To his jokes about, and against, his own poetizing, Collins now adds two new emphases: on life in France, where (to judge by the poems) he has spent some time and (more pervasively) a preoccupation with the end of life. Collins is never carefree, but he is, as always, accessible and high-spirited, making light even when telling himself that nothing lasts: "Vermont, Early November" finds the poet in his kitchen, wringing his signature charm from the eternal carpe diem theme, "determined to seize firmly/ the second Wednesday of every month." For Collins, such are his stock in trade, humorous and serious at once. His tongue-in-cheek assault on the "gloom and doubt in our poetry" is his only remedy for the loneliness that (even for him) shadows all poems: "this is a poem, not a novel," he laments, "and the only characters here are you and I,/ alone in an imaginary room/ which will disappear after a few more lines." (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"This love for the petty things,/part natural from the slow eye of childhood,/part a literary affectation" is endemic to these poems by former poet laureate Collins. Collins takes aim with wit and irony to attend the ordinary as well as the extraordinary. Some poems are written in Paris, where, in one, the poet imagines completing Paul Valéry's wandering, abandoned poems. Some are conscious of themselves, addressing the notion of the reader as well as the writer: "Where are you, reader,/who have not paused in your walk/to look over my shoulder/to see what I am jotting in my notebook?" And some address larger issues: the passage of time, death, life's purpose. "Crashing through the iron gates of life/is what it's all about," the poet decides as he stretches out on the carpet in service to the day he has chosen to seize. "Poetry is a place where both [listening and being listened to] are true at once,/where meaning only one thing at a time spells malfunction." In these poems, readers will find Collins honoring both with bits of wisdom and considerable delight. Essential for contemporary poetry collections.
Accessibility is the word that comes immediately to mind when considering Billy Collins's poetry, and this collection will surely add to his popularity and praise. Few, if any, poets writing today can match his combination of wit, humor, and irony with equal measures of close observation, intelligence, and passion. Most of his poems can be appreciated with a single reading, but many reveal deeper thought and emotion with repeated readings. Collins is a master at employing simple, direct language to explore the wonders and mysteries of this world. Seemingly without effort, and never forcefully, he consistently invites readers to join him as he notices, considers, and comments on a wide range of profound and mundane aspects of life. All of this is particularly important when readers are relatively inexperienced in the world of poetry. It is safe to say that the legions of teens bored to tears by the likes of Eliot, Pound, and Auden in their English lit classes might form a more accepting view of poetry if they were first introduced to the genre by the work of Collins. This collection includes a poem titled "Oh, MY God!" which, in nine short lines, and with devilish wit, captures the essence of that all-too-popular exclamation in contemporary teen culture. And it is but one example of the many choice nuggets to be found here.-Robert Saunderson, Berkeley Public Library, CA