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Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems Paperback – Unabridged, September 17, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (September 17, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375755195
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375755194
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.3 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (134 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,430 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This collection hit the front page of the New York Times its first time out of the blocks in 1999, as the University of Pittsburgh Press, Collins's longtime publisher, denied Random the rights to the poems as the poet tried to jump ship. The two houses and Collins's agent, Chris Calhoun (Dan Menaker is Collins's editor at Random), later worked out a deal that gave Pitt a few more months to ride Picnic, Lightning (1998) and Collins's other books without this culling treading on its sales. As it now appears, the book includes 23 poems from Picnic, more than from any of Collins's previous three books included here. (Work from the early Video Poems and Pokerface is absent.) Collins's poems are generally conveyed by a speaker whose genial, highly literate analogue of earnestness perfectly produces inchoate quotidian restlessness matched by fear-based appreciation of the mundane. A typical Collins poem begins with "How agreeable it is not to be touring Italy this summer," "The way the dog trots out the front door" or the observation that "It is possible to be struck by a meteor/ or a single-engine plane/ while reading in a chair at home" and continues by juxtaposing, say, close descriptions of "the instant hand of Death" and "the rasp of the steel edge/ against a round stone,/ the small plants singing/ with lifted faces." It's a formula that has worked well for Collins, and he does not abandon it in the 20 new poems here. (On-sale date: Sept. 11) Forecast: A reading on NPR's A Prairie Home Companion was the beginning of serious sales for Picnic, Lightning (40,000 copies and counting), while The Art of Drowning has sold 26,000 since 1995, and Questions About Angels clocks in at 21,000 since 1991. Collins's reading tours for this book should help reach even more readers, and some browsers may remember the Times story.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

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 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

...I would write like Billy Collins.
Oddsfish
He writes about everyday experiences with fresh insights, humor and poignancy.
Shayne Looper
I highly recommend this book to those who enjoy contemporary poetry.
Patricia

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

131 of 137 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 1, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I'm one of those readers who finds most poetry to be maddenly opaque, filled with mostly ambiguous and meaningless words. Dante's Inferno is a masterpiece, but he gave us something to sink our teeth into. Some of Robert Frost's poems are wonderful. But most poetry leaves me frustrated and unfulfilled. I don't blame the poets or the poems--they just don't do it for me. Give me some good, meaty prose, something with a real plot and strong sinewy words to chew on, and I'm a happy reader.
Then someone suggested I give Billy Collins a try, so I invested $20+ on his recent collection entitled "Sailing Around the Room." (mostly poems from his prior collections, but with twenty or so new ones).
What can I say? In the two days since I bought this volume, I've read each of the poems several times. Collins is humorous, insightful, and even his ambiguities are delicious. But beneath the humor lies some deep insights into humanity, a sense of sadness amid our passage through life (the last lines in "November" are heartbreaking). Many of his poems are wry commentaries on the creative process.
If you've ever owned a dog, his "Dharma" is a revelation, you'll gain a new appreciation for snow from reading "Snow" or "Snow Day," you'll never look at someone listening to a disc player the same way after you've read "Man Listening to Disc," and you'll never pick up a Victoria's Secret catalog again without examining it through the humorous eyes of "Victoria's Secret."
I loved this volume and I'll read it over and over. It's everything I have described above, but above all things, it's wise. Collins has enough of life under his belt to understand its humor, its tragedy, its joy, and its rhythms. And he has the voice to make it all real for the reader.
Even if you hate poetry, buy this book.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By PARTHO ROY on September 20, 2002
Format: Paperback
You may find yourself reading critically acclaimed poetry in "The New York Review of Books" and other highbrow literary journals, only to think, "This stuff is horrible!" So you pick up your dog-eared copy of Keats, Shelley, or Byron, and read those more familiar odes of yesteryear, lamenting that today's poets are too alien to enjoy. It's not that you're not intelligent or avant-garde enough; it's just that the poetry of today really is bizarre.
For you, reader, I recommend Billy Collins. He is critically acclaimed indeed--the Library of Congress' U.S. Poet Laureate, in fact--but he is also approachably good. Like Garrison Keillor, Mr. Collins understands the value of writing funny, and his dry, New York wit punctuates each verse like a breath of fresh air. When I first heard him read his poetry on NPR, I realized that there really is good poetry being written out there in America. Collins is the real thing, and it's writers like him that are bringing poetry back to popularity. I truly admire his work, and you will too.
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31 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Taylor M. Mali on September 15, 2001
Format: Hardcover
If you haven't bought a book of poetry in a while (or, perhaps, ever), Billy Collins's most recent collection is a good choice. His poems are unfailingly accessible and entertaining, so easy to read they make poetry look as if it's easy to write. Collins abhors lofty, incomprehensible verse and yet manages to reconcile his down home persona with an obvious love of good wine, good jazz, and reference books of varying sizes. I'm off now to the park with my dog, my coffee, and my copy of Billy Collins.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By James Weston on January 8, 2007
Format: Paperback
If a poet's service to others is to wipe off our eyes and then join us as we admire the way the smears distort our pet illusions and how the truth still shines through, then Mr Collins has succeeded masterfully. These might be your words when the mind is quiet enough to be allowed to bump along the ceiling like a lost helium balloon, no direction and no fear of seeing the simple, glorious dance all around us. A delightful tickle and cold water on the inside of your face.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Hardware Bob on December 12, 2006
Format: Paperback
A wonderful collection of poems for those on your list to whom you wish to introduce poetry. This collection of poems reads easily with "first-read" understanding and pleasure as they describe those everyday occurances,viewing them with irregular insight. Nothing long, nothing tedius - just glimpses into our lives sure to bring a wry smile to the reader. Highly recommended.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Hoffman, author:Radiation Days: A Comedy VINE VOICE on November 29, 2006
Format: Paperback
I'm told that most modern poets don't like Billy
Collins. Good. Collins tells little stories of
the inside and outside world, composes jokes small
and large, points to the obvious, leaves some
interesting part unsaid, tickles the daylights out
of you and makes everything seem new again.

The title is, I guess, a reference to the wonderful
book Sailing Alone Around the World by Captain Joshua
Slocum and to the quirky but ultimately disappointing
Journey Around my Bedroom by Javier de Maistre. In
fact, Collins himself refers to the armchair nature
of his adventures several times in the poems.

Thanks to him, I am, like other reviewers of this
collection reading poetry again. But mostly I'm living
some bits of it and writing little poems to my kid.

Thanks, Billy. Especially for The Nightclub.

--Lynn Hoffman, author of THE NEW SHORT COURSE IN WINE and
the forthcoming novel bang BANG from Kunati Books.ISBN 9781601640005
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