- Audio CD: 1 pages
- Publisher: Random House Audio; Unabridged edition (October 22, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385366396
- ISBN-13: 978-0385366397
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 5.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.9 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 254 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,164,330 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Aimless Love: A Selection of Poems Audio CD – Audiobook, CD, Unabridged
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Collins, or the speaker in his poems, watches himself with helpless bemusement as he lives “a life of continual self-expression, / jotting down little things.” Obsessive “noticing” gets him into all sorts of trouble, as recounted so wryly, so tenderly in “Aimless Love,” the poem that gives this vital and shrewdly provocative volume its title and in which the speaker records his sequential ardor for a wren, a mouse, and a bar of soap. In selections from his four most recent collections, from Nine Horses (2002) to Horoscopes for the Dead (2011), and 51 glimmering new poems, former poet laureate and reader favorite Collins, the maestro of the running-brook line and the clever pivot, celebrates the resonance and absurdity of what might be called the poet’s attention-surfeit disorder. He nimbly mixes the timeless––the sun, loneliness—with the fidgety, digital now. Some poems are funny from the opening gambit to the closing flourish. But Collins’ droll wit is often a diversionary tactic, so that when he strikes you with the hard edge of his darker visions, you reel. --Donna Seaman --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“America’s favorite poet.”—The Wall Street Journal
“[Billy Collins] is able, with precious few words, to make me cry. Or laugh out loud. He is a remarkable artist. To have such power in such an abbreviated form is deeply inspiring.”—J. J. Abrams, The New York Times Book Review
“His work is poignant, straightforward, usually funny and imaginative, also nuanced and surprising. It bears repeated reading and reading aloud.”—The Plain Dealer
“Collins has earned almost rock-star status. . . . He knows how to write layered, subtly witty poems that anyone can understand and appreciate—even those who don’t normally like poetry. . . . The Collins in these pages is distinctive, evocative, and knows how to make the genre fresh and relevant.”—The Christian Science Monitor
“Collins’s new poems contain everything you've come to expect from a Billy Collins poem. They stand solidly on even ground, chiseled and unbreakable. Their phrasing is elegant, the humor is alive, and the speaker continues to stroll at his own pace through the plainness of American life.”—The Daily Beast
“[Collins’s] poetry presents simple observations, which create a shared experience between Collins and his readers, while further revealing how he takes life’s everyday humdrum experiences and makes them vibrant.”—The Times Leader
“Former poet laureate and reader favorite Collins, the maestro of the running-brook line and the clever pivot, celebrates the resonance and absurdity of what might be called the poet’s attention-surfeit disorder. . . . But Collins’s droll wit is often a diversionary tactic, so that when he strikes you with the hard edge of his darker visions, you reel.”—Booklist
“A stellar jumping-off point . . . a joyride through all layers of his approach from 2002 to the present, which should not only please his current fans, but inspire many others to dive into Mr. Collins’s work, headfirst.”—The Rumpus
From the Hardcover edition.
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American Poetry is being overwhelmed by bad poetry written by bad poets that seems to be meant only for other bad poets in college writing programs. Harsh though my judgment is, Collins would agree and he has agreed in any number of essays on 'What's wrong with American Poetry' that seem to be a popular essay subject in various literary and semi-literary magazines. In poetry, obscurity should never be confused with profundity.
Collins' poetry attempts to reverse that trend and does so. Whether Collins is describing his morning cup of coffee before sitting down to write or a seemingly mundane occurrence from going to town the day before, Collins portrays his subject clearly and deeply with a touch of humor. These are great poems. After reading a few, you can actually remember their subject and find yourself thinking about their themes. Try that with your average Modern American Poetry Anthology often based on some wacko political theory or cultural sub-grouping rather than being good or thoughtful.
As a poetry lover, nothing gets me more stimulated that arguing with another poetry lover what a "good" poem should be. None of us ever agree. Often my regard for Kipling or Service or Frost or Pessoa or Camoes will set whoever I am talking with laughing. When they try to convince me that some modern poet that is highly regarded but no one can even quote a single line from is profound, I laugh right back at them. So I really can't say if you will like these poems; all I can really say in the end is that I did like them and many others have too. 4 stars.
Yet, the repetition of pretty much the same method -- a sharp perception or evocation, a clever move toward defamiliarizing, and comforting reversal returning us to the familiar -- many of the poems reproduce this pattern and suggest to the reader who is traversing many pages of Collins's poems that his work is better read in moderation, a few poems at a time, with long rests between.
This is because the patterns so often seem to be the only excuse for the poem. Collins depends on his sharp senses and his witty manipulation of words to keep the readers' attention while entertaining and reassuring them that they have enjoyed a good poem. That is often true, but "good" is about as much as one can say for them. They are well crafted, they amuse or entertain, on a very few occasions, they may prompt serious thought or deep feeling, but mostly they skim surfaces and allow easy exits.
Collins is very aware of these reservations from his critics. In this collection, we find several poems, a few from years back, a couple from the "new" section, wherein he comments on the "problems" with poetry and with being a poet. "The Suggestion Box," for example, is especially relevant. He humorously describes a day during which several people tell him that he "could write a poem about that." People who know he is a poet offer "subjects" for poems--a waitress spills coffee in his lap, there is a fire drill interrupting classes, he encounters a man with a face full of tattoos, and so on. He jokes that people expect him to write about quirky experiences, and he suggests to himself "Maybe I should write a poem/about all the people who think/they know what I should be writing poems about." And so the cute and witty turn--he is writing a poem about writing a poem in the context of readers' expectations. And that poem entertains, especially with its final image of a pair of ducks emerging from the water, in exactly the way the people expect. It also, to some extent, gets Collins off the hook, since he is acknowledging that there are some who think his poems are shallow while, simultaneously, and justifiably, claiming that there is a difference in depth and significance between his poems about objects and occasions and the triviality of the subjects offered by his readers--he is better than they think, he claims, and that is true.
In another such poem, "No Things," opens with a reference to "This love for everyday things," and mounts a defense of finding the poetic wonder in what another poet called "the stuff of what happens," while giving a backhand to the poets of "no," with Philip Larkin's name prominently displayed as a poet of everyday life who finds darkness, misery, even despair, in the elements of an ordinary day's encounters. Collins's ironic attack on poets who are always "banging away on the mystery" is both a pointed critique (sometimes the doomsayers can be as repetitive and seemingly mechanical in their poetic procedures and Collins is accused of being, but on the negative side) and a pointed self-defense--he values "the firefly,/the droplet running along the green leaf,/or even the bar of soap sliding around the bathtub" and implicitly refuses to be forced to see the dark sides of such images.
The ongoing battle in the American poetry business between the champions of the "accessible and audience-friendly poem" and those who insist that such work is mere versifying at best, kitsch at worst, and certainly not poetry, who assert the superior value of poems as language machines, deep images, surreal or dreamlike experiences (poems are not about anything), leaps of imagination, inspired nonsense, etc., continues and is unlikely to abate, though neither side can produce convincing arguments for the exclusive superiority of their preferred poetic modes. Collins is a high level practitioner of the charming and accessible poem that is both thoughtful and witty, even occasionally moving and enlightening. He is unlikely ever to be ranked with the great poets, because our aesthetic tends to value the dark and serious and probing over the light and charming and amusing. So be it.
As for this volume, it offers a generous selection of Collins's earlier poems and a similarly generous selection of previously uncollected poems. It seems to me to be an excellent introduction to his work for a new reader, a pleasant set of additions for anyone who already knows the earlier works. While there are several very strong poems among the new ones, there is little difference from his earlier work--which is perhaps his strength for those who like his work, though it probably also confirms the negatives for those who do not. The concluding poem in this volume, it must be said, is a departure--"The Names: (for the victims of September 11 and their survivors)" is an uncommonly serious poem--an expression of respect for the grief, the pain, the loss, carried forward as a kind of litany/catalogue of names linked with images of time passing, life ended and life going on. As it really had to be, this was and is an exceptional poem in Collins's body of work.