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135 Reviews
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131 of 137 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful poetry for people ambivalent about poety.
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...
Published on October 1, 2001

versus
26 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It gets better
I am a voracious reader of contemporary poetry, but I have never previously been interested in Collins's work, which has seemed to me more or less insignifant. I read this book after he became Poet Laureate, and although I don't hate it, it's not exactly earth-shattering either. I suppose that's the point: Collins wants to be charming and minor, and he's both to a tee...
Published on December 5, 2001 by David Kellogg


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131 of 137 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful poetry for people ambivalent about poety., October 1, 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems (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
5.0 out of 5 stars a real American poet, September 20, 2002
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshingly devoid of tweed and pomp, September 15, 2001
This review is from: Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems (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
5.0 out of 5 stars A wry flashing, January 8, 2007
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyday events take new meaning., December 12, 2006
By 
Hardware Bob (San Francisco Bay Area) - See all my reviews
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank Heaven that the poets hate him, November 29, 2006
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Connects in a Quiet and Strange Way, October 29, 2005
This review is from: Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems (Hardcover)
My only poetic exposure since Shakespeare in high school has been biblical Old Testament books such as Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastics (which I enjoy tremendously). Recently, on a whim, I read this Billy Collins book and was glad I did. It somehow connected with me in ways that were humorous, touching, or haunting, or some combination of these, while being quiet and meditative in tone. It was an atmospheric trip into a strange land where you could feel your right brain getting a good workout. No need to understand everything, just enjoy the flowers or turns-of-phrase along the way. It was spending quality time with someone gifted enough to be the Poet Laureate of the United States for 2001-2003.

A Collins' poem starts from a known place, time, or activity, and then shifts gears and goes into another dimension. It begins with hearing barking dogs, shoveling snow, writing a poem, or having insomnia and ends-up in a real place with a fantastic twist (like a dog playing in an orchestra). It can also end-up in a fantastic place with a real activity (like a fanciful drive through your entire life on a bicycle in Scotland). The idea seems to be to enjoy the journey without dissecting everything along the way. There was a certain freedom for me to leave the analytical tendencies behind for a change, since I don't often get a chance to do that. It felt good to let the intuitive side of me stretch a little. As you can tell, it is hard to pin down what one likes about poetry, but maybe this kind of poetry is just about letting go for a while without thinking about the destination. At least, for me it was, and I enjoyed being able to do that.
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26 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It gets better, December 5, 2001
This review is from: Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems (Hardcover)
I am a voracious reader of contemporary poetry, but I have never previously been interested in Collins's work, which has seemed to me more or less insignifant. I read this book after he became Poet Laureate, and although I don't hate it, it's not exactly earth-shattering either. I suppose that's the point: Collins wants to be charming and minor, and he's both to a tee. His best poems riff on some well-known idea (like how many angels can dance on the head of a pin) and then kind of get distracted by an image. By associative logic, the poems veer off their own path -- which is often pretty well-trodden -- and into more mysterious and interesting territory. This often works as a technique, although it gets predictable. And Collins is funny, which is a big plus. I tended not to mind that he didn't really have much significant to say. This is poetry as beach reading.
One thing about Collins's technique: you can see Collins's ear getting better in the later books. The first 50 pages or so are just unmelodious, ugly even, and I don't think it's really purposeful. In the later books he gets more comfortable with his breezy sentences and takes more chances with the line. It's not like he's ever a poet of much risk, but the phrasing is (usually) not dull or flat in the later books.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great poetry pure and simple, August 17, 2006
All too often people grow up learning to hate poetry because some well-meaning teacher dissected a poem right before their eyes and killed it in the process. Either that, or they were exposed to bizarre free verse poems that made absolutely no sense. No one wants to read stuff they can't understand or that seems to be written in code.

Billy Collins is the antidote to your high school English teacher. He doesn't write in code, but in a simple and understandable, yet vibrant and moving style. His poems will affect you without overwhelming you; they will touch you without assaulting you.

As a poet myself, I'm always intrigued by how other word artists are able to strum deep chords of emotion through simple observations and reflections about our world--chords that may reverberate for years. Billy does this through letting each poem grow into a transformative event. You never leave the poem viewing the world in the same way. I suppose that's what I enjoy most about Billy Collins--his ability to cause the reader to enter the poem while reading it and then end in a different place altogether.

If you hate poetry, try Billy Collins. If you love poetry, my guess is you already have.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The un-poetry, December 16, 2003
By A Customer
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I generally don't like poetry, and I'm an English Major at a large university. However, when one of my professors included a piece from Billy Collins on a first-of-quarter hand out, I knew that this poet was unlike your typical flowery, treacly poet of yesterday.
Billy Collins' works isn't the poetry you may remember -- the boring stuff wrapped up in an unintelligable language for you to decipher. His words pierce your heart, make you smile, laugh and sometimes, nod with a deep understanding, or shed a tear.
I purchased this collection of Mr. Collins' work, and highly recommend it. Especially to poetry-phobes. It won't change your mind about all poetry, but will give you a benchmark for quality, contemporary poetry.
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Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems
Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins (Hardcover - Sept. 2001)
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