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The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems Paperback – March 13, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Two years after his very visible stint as U.S. poet laureate, Collins (Sailing Alone Around the Room) remains one of the nation's most popular poets. His light touch, his self-deprecating pathos and his unerring sense of his audience (nothing too difficult, but nothing too lowbrow) explain much of that popularity and remain evident in this eighth collection. "The birds are in their trees,/ the toast is in the toaster,/ and the poets are at their windows," the volume begins: the poet as sensitive everyman, moved if not baffled by literary legacies, and attracted to simple pleasures, constructs a series of similar days and scenes. "In the Moment" depicts "a day in June," "the kind that gives you no choice/ but to unbutton your shirt/ and sit outside in a rough wooden chair"; "I Ask You" opens on "an ordinary night at the kitchen table." Collins's comic gifts are also much in evidence: "Special Glasses" describes spectacles that "filter out the harmful sight of you"; "The Introduction" makes fun of footnotes and obscurities in other poets' poems. The dominant note, however, is a gentle sadness, accomplished with care and skill, sometimes (as in "The Lanyard") garnished by autobiographical wisdom. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Collins is one of the most popular and most disarming of poets. He draws you close with his swinging lines, twirling metaphors, homey imagery, and coy self-deprecation. But he is as likely to be hiding a cudgel behind his back as a bouquet of flowers. How fitting it is that in "Theme," a suavely disconsolate poem, he tips his hat to Cole Porter and the great composer's "put-on nonchalance." Porter's wry and clever style is Collins' style, too, and he uses it with mastery and purpose in easily consumed and devastatingly funny poems in which he shares his discernment of the wonder and torment of life, the terror and banality of death. In meditative poems blissfully free of labored allusions, Collins detects the metaphysical dimension of a hot shower or a glass of iced tea, even as he writes candidly about how difficult it is to control the unruly mind. Skeptical of love and scornful of pretension, Collins is breathtaking in his appreciation of the earth's beauty and the precious daily routines that define life. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 88 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; 1st edition (March 13, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375755217
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375755217
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #66,064 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia R. Wyatt on March 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
"The Trouble With Poetry," the title poem of Collins' most recent book, is not, as Auden and Frost complained, that it doesn't make a difference, but that it is so dynamic, so important, so chock-full of truth that we wish we had written it ourselves. This strong collection of new poems will leave you with just that sentiment, the "I wish I'd said that" moment when you spot something on the page that is so apt, that so perfectly captures a small (or not-so-small) truth about life, humanity, the human condition, dogs, or love that you covet it. Collins comes across as a friend to the reader, a congenial companion, never lecturing, always sharing, knowing that the shared "moments" are welcome. No wonder Collins has broken tradition and actually sold books, lots of books, during his career which includes being appointed Poet Laureate of the United States. He was our Poet on September 11, 2001, and when asked what poetry could help people ease their anguish, he said we could open any book of poetry and find comfort, because poetry by definition embraces and celebrates life, warts and all. Well, his does. Bravo.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Darcy M. Boynton on December 10, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Billy Collins has outdone himself. The Trouble with Poetry (brilliantly titled, yes?) will make you laugh, cry, and think. I just read a review criticizing Collins for his lack of complexity. Billy's LANGUAGE is simple, yes, but his poetry is not. It is straighforward, concise, and yet it packs a punch. Upon reading the nine-line poem "Carry", I found my eyes welling up, such was the pure emotion captured in those three stanzas. It is hard to read Collins when one is alone- the desire to get up out of your armchair and share your newfound treasures with the world is overhwelming.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Haugh VINE VOICE on January 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a great admirer of Mr. Collins. His ability to write very personal poems that still manage to draw in the reader and be accessible is amazing. Plus, he has the great ability to use simple language to create powerful images. He uses this ability right at the opening of this volume in the wonderful lead poem, "You, Reader.": "I wonder how you are going to feel/when you find out/that I wrote this poem instead of you,//that it was I who got up early/to sit in the kitchen/and mention with a pen//the rain soaked windows,..."

There are a number of excellent verses in this book. Among the best are "Traveling Alone," "I Ask You," "Breathless," "The Introduction," and the title poem, "The Trouble with Poetry." But my favorite one in this collection is "The Lanyard." In this one, the poet comes across the word "lanyard" while browsing in the dictionary and this takes him back to when he made a lanyard for his mother at summer camp. This takes him to the heart of the poem, where the poet considers a boy's unequal relationship with his mother-- "She gave me life and milk from her breasts,/and I gave her a lanyard." He goes on in this incisive vein for awhile before finishing with an adult's understanding of a boy's foolishness. Not "that you can never repay your mother" but that, as a boy, he was sure the lanyard "would be enough to make us even." This is an insightful, moving poem.

Of course, when you deal with simple language and images, as Collins does, when you miss, you miss hard. There are plenty of poems in this book that don't do much for me but Collins remains consistent in his style which makes them easy enough to get through. I have yet to read a volume of poetry that hits the mark 100% of the time. Still, Collins hits the mark often enough to make me wait impatiently for each new collection.
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60 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Linda Williamson on October 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Collins has a strong connection to Emily Dickinson, and in one of her poems she says, "I am older now, Master." Collins seems to be saying that "I am older now, Reader." The poems in this volume are still as elegant, but more solemn. Many of them are about taking the time to study the interior of his house, as thought this simple pleasure might not last forever. A stillness pervades some of the poems, almost a deathly stillness. This is a memorable volume, and definitely worth the wait.
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Brian Walker on March 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I ran into Billy Collins in my AP English class and after a few poems fell in love with his simple yet thought provoking poems. So when I found out that we were required to read through a book of poetry (of our choice) and do a project on the book I was overjoyed. I have always been a big fan of poetry, and this was right up my ally.

So I went and bought this book and sat down and read each poem. I was enthralled by Billy Collin's ability to write wonderful, yet simple poetry. I never once needed a dictionary, nor did I need to search any obscure idea or allusion up on the web. I was forced to read through a few poems twice or three times to try and find all the emotions and thoughts that Mr. Collins was incorporating into each poem. But having to read a poem multiple times is not necissarily a bad thing; in my opinion it is a good thing that a poem can have the depth and enjoyability to require a second read.

I wish I could choose a poem to be my favorite from this book, but I just can not. I feel as if it would be unjust to select one poem from this book and say it was my favorite. But I will say that the first section is the most heavily annotated in my book, because I fell head first into each poem and would try and absorb every feeling, emotion, and thought the poem inspired. As the book continues my poems are gradually less annotated, until I was finally just marking my favorite lines and maybe a small note at the bottom of the page. I do not mean to discourage a reader from the second half of this book though, each poem is still wonderfully written.

I give this book 5 stars with ease. Whether you love poetry with every bit of your heart or are just starting to find a place in your heart for poetry you should pick this book up! And fall into Billy Collin's wonderful ability to captivate a reader and let them enjoy poetry without all the big words and complicated meanings that older poets flare their poems with.
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