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Horoscopes for the Dead: Poems [Hardcover]

by Billy Collins
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 5, 2011 1400064929 978-1400064922 1

Billy Collins is widely acknowledged as a prominent player at the table of modern American poetry. And in this new collection, Horoscopes for the Dead, the verbal gifts that earned him the title “America’s most popular poet” are on full display. The poems here cover the usual but everlasting themes of love and loss, life and death, youth and aging, solitude and union. With simple diction and effortless turns of phrase, Collins is at once ironic and elegiac, as in the opening lines of the title poem:
Every morning since you disappeared for good,
I read about you in the newspaper
along with the box scores, the weather, and all the bad news.
Some days I am reminded that today
will not be a wildly romantic time for you . . .
And in this reflection on his own transience:
It doesn’t take much to remind me
what a mayfly I am,
what a soap bubble floating over the children’s party.
Standing under the bones of a dinosaur
in a museum does the trick every time
or confronting in a vitrine a rock from the moon.
Smart, lyrical, and not afraid to be funny, these new poems extend Collins’s reputation as a poet who occupies a special place in the consciousness of readers of poetry, including the many he has converted to the genre.

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.

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

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (April 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400064929
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400064922
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #103,694 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
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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22 of 28 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unless you're a Collins fan, pass this one up June 8, 2011
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard not to Like Collins November 13, 2011
By J. Doom
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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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Collection of "A" Poems 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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Light hearted weight of depth
I love Billy Collins and his love of pairing the ..... Whatever he decides to pair. He sculpts the sublime with a simplicity without out taking away any depth, sorrow or joy.
Published 2 months ago by Elisabeth A. Treger
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetry for the 21st century
Just a touch of self-referential awareness, a light touch, a smilng aside to the reader, a surprise .... all these can be found in this perfectly rendered collection of poems.
Published 4 months ago by Professor J
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetry is not dead
It took a turn for the better,now slumbering under Billy Collins'es pillow. Light-handed,let's hope he continues to shuffle out our cards of fortune in such pleasant form. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Avid Reader
4.0 out of 5 stars Recommended reading
Collins appears to write poetry of distinction and humanness so effortlessly that it's a treat to read every new book of his. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Michael Sharkey
5.0 out of 5 stars Billy Collins' Poems -- Filled with Insight and Surprises
My bookshelves hold nearly all of Billy Collins' volumes of poetry, and I thought, "They just can't get any better" --but they did! Read more
Published 11 months ago by Ruth Ann Peck
5.0 out of 5 stars Vintage Billy!
Billy Collins never fails to delight and surprise me. His sense of whimsy, his delight in the smallest things of daily life, his deep and often astonishing insights into the human... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Dick Galland
5.0 out of 5 stars clear and delicate insights, lit with meaning
Bill Collins offers insights in this collection as delicate as tiny spider webs caught between fence posts, covered with dew, lit by the early morning sun. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Bill Baker
5.0 out of 5 stars Billy Collins
Superb imagery, lyrical. A wonderful read, page after delicious page, pausing only so it wouldn't be gone so soon. Another?
Published 12 months ago by William G. Davies Jr.
5.0 out of 5 stars She loved it
My dearest friend who is a published poet also loves Billy Collins. She was so happy to get this as a surprise from me.
Published 13 months ago by Tn Girl
5.0 out of 5 stars Billy Collins!
See him in TED. Read every poem of his carefully. Then read your favorites again. He used to be poet laureate of the United States and he helps us remember that poetry matters. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Bill
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