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Ballistics: Poems Hardcover – September 9, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (September 9, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400064910
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400064915
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 5.9 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #832,660 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School—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
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Billy Collins makes it sooo easy!
Paul Burck
Each is highly readable, full of wit and brilliant conceits, paradoxes, and images.
Sertorius
Mr. Collins writes with charm and humor about the most ordinary of subjects.
H. F. Corbin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 57 people found the following review helpful By H. F. Corbin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
When I recently heard Billy Collins read several of the poems from this new collection, he was compared, both in the printed material and by the person who introduced him, to Robert Frost in that both writers have the "rare combination of critical acclaim and broad popular appeal," a dubious comparison at best since I can think of six or eight other contemporary poets who would fall into that category as well. I certainly am not suggesting that Mr. Collins, Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003, is not a fine poet; that he is. He just sounds nothing like Robert Frost nor any other poet for that matter. His poetry does, however, fit Frost's definition of poetry as beginning in delight and ending in wisdom. I was reminded once again that except in the rarest cases that no one reads poetry as well its author and that poetry should always be read aloud.

Mr. Collins writes with charm and humor about the most ordinary of subjects. "This Little Piggy Went to the Market" is all about playing with children. Animals float in bathtubs in "Bathtub Families." And in the poem "Ballistics" for which this volume is named, the poet imagines that in the high-speed photograph of a bullet piercing a book, that the "executed book/was a recent collection of poems written by someone of whom I was not fond."

In addition to these poems that will make you smile, often written with tongue in cheek, many of Mr. Collins' poems would fit his description of poetry as giving form to misery while others fall somewhere in between these two extremes. I would nominate the thoughtful "An Old Man Eating Alone in a Chinese Restaurant" as one of those where Collins is glad that he resisted the temptation as a young poet to write about a lonely old man eating in a restaurant.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By H. S. Wedekind VINE VOICE on October 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In an interview in June 2006 for "Guernica Magazine" *, Billy Collins talked about his conscious decision to move from being a serious and difficult to understand poet to one who wrote clear, accessible poems, "I think I kind of bought into the assumption that poetry had to be extremely gloomy and incomprehensible, or nearly so. And when I wrote I took on the role of the despondent and difficult to understand person. Whereas in life, I was easy to understand, to the point of being simple-minded maybe.

The change came I would say when I began to dare to be clear, because I think clarity is the real risk in poetry because you are exposed. You're out in the open field. You're actually saying things that are comprehensible, and it's easy to criticize something you understand."

OK...I confess: I like his poetry because it is so understandable. A professor of English I once had looked down on poets who were easy to understand and dismissed them as being either lazy or lacking in talent or intellectual light-weights or all three. He'd sometimes say things about a poem written by a poet he didn't particularly care for as being "mellifluous and written with pastels." I'm sure, if he's still teaching, he's saying that to "unsophisticated" undergrads (just like I was back then) about the poetry of Billy Collins. Fortunately, I've grown up and am still unsophisticated enough to enjoy poetry that I can understand and even chuckle at knowing the poet is saying something funny on purpose. Such is the poetry of Billy Collins, for me at least.

I do own most of his poetry books and enjoy many of his poems. The reason I gave BALLISTICS only 4 stars instead of 5 is because I don't think the poems contained within are as good as those in previous books. I do like "Addendum" (p.
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44 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Ted Burke on September 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Billy Collins writes poems that are literate, elegant, artfully crafted, and utterly coherent in the point he wants to get across , the feeling he want to evoke, the irony he wants to convey, and his ability to achieve all this in successive books in equally successive poems is both the attraction to his writing and what bores me silly. His new book, "Ballistics", is the writing of someone who wants to take the starch out of the image of poets and the willfully abstruse poems they compose. Rather, he pulls back the curtain and lets you see the process. Often enough he'll set up the scene, paint a picture, and then address the reader directly, aware that he writes verse that will be read by thousands of book buyers, and includes them in on the joke.

This is charming , of course, and one admires the grace with which Collins writes his lines--a better balanced set of free verse I've never seen, really--but for all the pleasure he provides for the painless duration of his poems and the usually flawless what-the-!@@1 surprises he offers up for the final stanza, a formulaic tedium sets in. Disguised as the essence might is, there are trace elements of journalistic efficiency here ; one notes the style, the arranging of details, how the poems start with an announcement of the poet beginning his day futzing around the house, walking into rooms, staring out the window, and then the intruding thought that distracts and manages to make the banal yet telling details of his home life and his community take on a more somber (or alternately, a giddier ) tone, a final, spare description of an item that eludes the metaphorical devices he's deployed, and then the twist, the coda, the pay off that makes you go ahhhh
as though his poems were nothing more than a fast swig from a cold soda.
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