Billy Collins writes lovely poemslovely 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.
Luring his readers into the poem with humor, Mr. Collins leads them unwittingly into deeper, more serious places, a kind of journey from the familiar or quirky to unexpected territory, sometimes tender, often profound.
What Collins does best is turn an apparently simple phrase into a numinous moment. . . . A poet of plenitude, irony, and Augustan grace.
Collins' extremely popular collection is finally available in paperback. Considering its success in hardcover, this edition is a sure-fire hit at a more attractive price. Collins' selection as America's Poet Laureate served as a public acknowledgment of his position in the contemporary poetry scene, but it also enhanced his popularity through exposure and this collection of his best work is a treasure. Collins' work is enormously appealing. It is comprehensible, universal, clever, original and perceptive. His humor, so pervasive in his public readings, is accessible on the page and his ability to build a poem from the mundane observation to the unexpected and insightful conclusion through shifting scope and focus is unmatched. His approach is unique in its disarming familiarity, its unabashed honesty. For example, Collins opens his poem "Fishing on the Susquehanna in July" with the lines, "I have never been fishing on the Susquehanna / or any river for that matter / to be perfectly honest. / Not in July or any month...." And he ends his poem "Budapest" with "...while I gaze out the window and imagine Budapest / or some other city where I have never been." Both Collins and his work are at once charming and significant. This is the best of the best, a "must" for any serious collection of contemporary American poetry. KLIATT Codes: SA*—Exceptional book, recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2001, Random House, 172p.,
This new volume from the newly appointed poet laureate of the United States has survived the publishing rights war between Random House and the University of Pittsburgh Press. The wait has been well worth it. The surface structure of these poems appears simplistic, but subtle changes in tone or gesture move the reader from the mundane to the sublime. In an attempt to sleep, the speaker in "Insomnia" moves from counting sheep to envisioning Noah's arc to picturing "all the fish in creation/ leaping a fence in a field of water,/ one colorful species after another." Collins will tackle any topic: his subject matter varies from snow days to Aristotle to forgetfulness. The results are accessible but not trite, comical but not laughable, and well crafted but not overly flamboyant. Collins relies heavily on imagery, which becomes the cornerstone of the entire volume, and his range of diction brings such a polish to these poems that the reader is left feeling that this book "once opened, can never be closed." This volume belongs in everyone's library; highly recommended. Tim Gavin, Episcopa Acad., Merion, PA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
“What Collins does best is turn an apparently simple phrase into a numinous moment.”
—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
“A brilliant comic sally...a wonderful, sly, and moving collection.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“[Collins] takes the mundane thing and shows you its mystery. And he takes the mysterious and strips it naked.”
—The Washington Post