Title: Questions About Angels: Poems
Author: Billy Collins
Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from the public library.
First line: We do not speak like Petrarch or wear a hat like Spenser / and it is not fourteen lines / like furrows in a small, carefully plowed field / but the picture postcard, a poem on vacation, / that forces us to sing our songs in little rooms / or pour our sentiments into measuring cups.
Reading poetry is such a personal experience. There are poets that other people rave over and while I may enjoy some of their work, other of their poems will leave me cold or unmoved. Then there are my favorite poets; reading their work is something to savor, one of the best things about life. So far, I’ve found three poets whose work moves me in that way: Wendell Berry, Madeleine L’Engle, and Billy Collins.
Reading Billy Collins is like soaking in a hot bath after a long day, or diving into a dish of your favorite ice cream. His poems are deceptively simple – you don’t have to read them over and over again to decipher their meaning. And yet you will want to read them over and over again for the pure beauty and joy of them, and because you’ll find something new each time you do. His poems alternately make me laugh, bring a lump to my throat, and elicit a sigh of pleasure or melancholy when I finish one. There really are no words to use to tell you how much I adore his work. I will leave you with some snippets of poems from Questions About Angels: Poems.
Is there a more gentle way to go into the night
than to follow an endless rope of sentences
and then to slip drowsily under the surface of a page
into the first tentative flicker of a dream,
passing out of the bright precincts of attention
like cigarette smoke passing through a window screen?
All late readers know this sinking feeling of falling
into the liquid of sleep and then rising again
to the call of a voice that you are holding in your hands,
as if pulled from the sea back into a boat
where a discussion is raging on some subject or other,
on Patagonia or Thoroughbreds or the nature of war.
Is there a better method of departure by night
than this quiet bon voyage with an open book,
the sole companion who has come to see you off,
to wave you into the dark waters beyond language?
~ from Reading Myself to Sleep
Did you know that it is possible if you read a poem
enough times, if you read it over and over without stopping,
that you can make the author begin to spin gently,
even affectionately, in his grave?
~ from The Norton Anthology of English Literature