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Horoscopes for the Dead: Poems Paperback – March 20, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The 1990s belonged to Billy Collins in the same way that the 1980s belonged to Robert Fulghum (All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten). Collins's gently ironic, gently elegiac work--the mirror image of, say, Jonathan Franzen's suburban delvings--has slowly constructed a pitch-perfect purgatory, and this death-themed ninth collection seems to want to make it as literal as possible: it opens as the speaker stands "before the joined grave of my parents" and asks, "What do you think of my new glasses?" In a poem titled "Hell," the speaker has "a feeling that is much worse/ than shopping for a mattress in a mall,// of greater duration without question,/ and there is no random pitchforking here,/ no licking flames to fear,/ only this cavernous store with its maze of bedding." That this feeling is never quite articulated over the course of 50-odd poems is not to its detriment: despite the prosaic settings and everyday language, Collins is after the big questions: of life, death, and how to live. But the world is not of his making, and his is a temperament oddly suited to a world where "the correct answer" to questions like why the stars appear as they do, strike "not like a bolt of lightning/ but more like a heavy bolt of cloth." (Mar.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Collins writes of time and death with humor and whirligig images and wordplay so unexpected and delectable, reading his poetry is like watching a magician transform ordinary objects�a coin, a card�into something breathtaking out of thin air. Collins likes to focus on small, unobtrusive beings like a mouse or a squirrel and informs us that he is the tortoise, not the hare. He steals an hour to walk up a hill and sit on a �rock the size of a car,� which he then imagines �once moved along / in the monstrous glacial traffic of the ice age.� The poet loves his dog�s �long smile,� and thinks of Dante in a �cavernous� mattress store. In this piquant collection�s hilarious and sweet title poem, Collins riffs on newspaper horoscopes and bemused memories of his beloved dead. A hangover inspires misanthropy, while everyday heartbreaks lead to droll confessions. Including thoughts on his �true vocation,� which is �keeping an eye on things / whether they existed or not, / recumbent under the random stars.� Collins rules as a charming master of mischievous wisdom. --Donna Seaman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (March 20, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812975626
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812975628
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #194,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 52 people found the following review helpful By C. O. Aptowicz on April 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Billy Collins has become such a poetic institution -- widely regarded as the most popular poet working today and known for his accessibility, as well as the enjoyability & lightness of his verse -- that it can be sometimes it be easy to forget that Billy Collins is a human being, a poet who is still exploring, experimenting and engaging.

In "Horoscopes for the Dead," these two Billy Collins -- the beloved poetic institution and still evolving writer -- are somersaulting all over each other.

For fans of iconic Billy Collins work, there is a lot to love in this collection. There are beautiful and clever pieces about house guests, beloved dogs, walks in the woods, poetry workshops and poetry readings, dinner parties, dinner guests and sometimes just dinners. You get the sense, as you may have in previous collections, that Collins is conspiring with you in some wonderful morning kitchen, and that you just happen to be the lucky recipient of his well-turned phrases and well-timed thoughts.

And yet, there are poems in here that are likely to surprise.

In this collection -- even more so than his last, "Ballistics" -- Collins seems fixated on the darker elements of life. While "Ballistics" explored the shadows of heartbreak, "Horoscopes for the Dead" seems to intent on meeting mortality in its eyes. In pieces like the book's first poem, "Grave" -- in which finds Collins laying down on the graves of his parents, hoping to communicate with them in some way -- to the book's title poem -- where the absurdity of horoscopes is juxtaposed with a longing for passed friends -- Collins seems to find himself musing about death in a variety of ways.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J. Doom on November 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoy poetry, but I can't always explain why. When I read poetry, I do it for enjoyment and not as any type of scholarly exercise. So why do I feel guilty, sometimes, for liking Billy Collins so much? I guess because when I read it, I don't think to myself, oh now I'm going to try to dissect this obscure poem and wring some meaning from it. Instead, I just enjoy what I'm reading. They say the sign of true genius is making the difficult look easy. I don't think there is any English language poet doing that better than Collins. His wit is sharp, he observations are seemingly simple, but when I really analyze what he is doing and realize how wonderful his word choices are, I really see a sort of genius there.

This book of poetry, Horoscopes for the Dead, is no different. Billy treats us to his dark humor, his light humor, his humor humor, and his wonderful ability to put concise words to paper, one after another the absolute best he can. And the result is a treat. Buy this book! Buy all his books.
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23 of 29 people found the following review helpful By dilbert guy on June 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I have read most of Collins other poetry books and do really like his poetry. This book however is just plain dull. The cover is great. Too bad the poems inside don't match it. There are a lot of observation poems -- I saw ______________ and it reminds me of _________. Just not fun to read. A few of them are okay, but none of the poems are as good as in his previous books. If you really want to read this see if you can get it from your library first to make sure you really do want to read it. This is not his finest work.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Foster Corbin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Billy Collins has said that the romantic poets killed off humor and replaced sex with landscapes. He also maintains that much poetry is about death and that we should read it for pleasure rather than analyzing it to death. (I believe that is a close paraphrase of what I heard him say about the poetry of Emily Dickinson in a recent radio interview.) He states, furthermore, that a poet should neither show all his cards nor place them all face down. This most popular of contemporary poets (United States Poet Laureate from 2001 to 2003) certainly practices what he preaches. Although many of the poems in his latest collection HOROSCOPES FOR THE DEAD deal with death, he doesn't forget to amuse us, throw in an erotic poem or two and make his poems accessible.

The poem "Feedback" will make your smile: "The woman who wrote from Phoenix/after my reading there/to tell me they were all still talking about it/just wrote again/to tell me that they had stopped."

The award for the erotic (with humor) goes to "Genesis" where the narrator wonders how it would have been if Eve had been created before Adam and considers
What life would be like as one of your ribs--
To be with you all the time,
riding under your blouse and skin,
caged with the soft weight of yours breasts. . .

Mr. Collins often writes about dogs. I particularly like "Two Creatures." I submit it to the critics who find his poems not deep enough.
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