- Paperback: 88 pages
- Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; First Edition 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: 104 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #200,014 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems Paperback – March 13, 2007
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Praise for Billy Collins
“Using simple, understandable language, Collins captures ordinary life–its pleasure, its discontents, its moments of sadness and of joy.”
“At once accessible and profound, [Collins’s] work makes him a natural people’s poet.”
“A poet of plenitude, irony, and Augustan grace.”
–The New Yorker
“A sort of poet not seen since Robert Frost.”
–The Boston Globe
“Collins reveals the unexpected within the ordinary. He peels back the surface of the humdrum to make the moment new.”
–The Christian Science Monitor
“It is difficult not to be charmed by Collins, and that in itself is a remarkable literary accomplishment.”
–The New York Review of Books
About the Author
Billy Collins is the author of seven collections of poetry, including Nine Horses, Sailing Alone Around the Room, Questions About Angels, The Art of Drowning, and Picnic, Lightning. He is also the editor of Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry and 180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Every Day. A distinguished professor of English at Lehman College of the City University of New York, he was Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003. He currently serves as the Poet Laureate of New York State.
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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.
Honestly the quality is so bad I thought it had been self published. Imagine my suprise when I turned it over and saw that it's a Random House publication. Didn't stop them charging full price though. I hope Mr Collins is at least getting a good cut, cause they're not spending it on printing.
"The Lanyard"--ah, those lanyards we make at camp! And then the debt of love and gratitude we owe our mothers, the astonishing jaw-dropping moment of this one!
"Reaper"--the chilling encounter with a real human being who, inescapably, resembles the grim reaper. My students were delighted at realizing the allusion to "Appointment in Samarra," which we had read earlier in semester!
"Constellations"--a look at the night sky, that leapt into my head last night, gazing up at a full moon in a clear midwestern sky, recognizing Orion, as the speaker of this poem does, and recalling the delightful imaginative twist at the end. I stood there wanting to make up my own constellations, too, but it was too cold...so I went inside.
"The Trouble with Poetry"--of course! The title poem, with its joy and sorrow and devilish humor, suggesting that the trouble with poetry is that it encourages the writing of more poetry, etc.! The theft issue that students of poetry have to grapple with is presented humorously here, and also a way to "cite" theft so it isn't theft after all. Again, this one manages to end on both a humorous and sobering note, and one about the making of a real poet from a Ferlinghetti fan of a high school boy!
This is a wonderful book, no trouble at all to read, straight through, for its marvelous progression, and then go back to, poem by poem, for joy.