Mini-reviews: Picnic, Lighting: Poems and Ballistics: Poems by Billy Collins

picniclightningTitle: Picnic, Lightning: Poems
Author: Billy Collins
Genre: Poetry
Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy borrowed from a friend

Title: Ballistics: Poems
Author: Billy Collins
Genre: Poetry
Publisher: Random House
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library

I’m not sure what I can say about Billy Collins that I haven’t already said. I raved about him for National Poetry Month:

When someone who is new to poetry asks where to start, Billy Collins is the first name that comes to mind. His poetry is simple and beautiful, profound and honest. More than once I have found myself literally sighing at the end of one of his poems. At other times, I am amazed to find tears spring to my eyes over one of the truths he has revealed in a completely new way. Simply put, I adore him.

This is what I said about his poetry in my review of Questions About Angels:

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 really have nothing else to say. I will leave you with a couple excerpts from my favorites in these two collections that I read in January.

In “Marginalia”, from Picnic, Lightning, Collins speaks of the joy of writing in books:

“We have all seized the white perimeter as our own
and reached for a pen if only to show
we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages;
we pressed a thought into the wayside,
planted an impression along the verge.”

ballisticsIn “The Effort”, from Ballistics, he pokes fun at literature teachers:

“Would anyone care to join me
in flicking a few pebbles in the direction
of teachers who are fond of asking the question:
“What is the poet trying to say?”

as if Thomas Hardy and Emily Dickinson
had struggled but ultimately failed in their efforts –
inarticulate wretches that they were,
biting their pens and staring out the window for a clue.

Yes, it seems that Whitman, Amy Lowell
and the rest could only try and fail,
but we in Mrs. Parker’s third-period English class
here at Springfield High will succeed

with the help of these study questions
in saying what the poor poet could not,
and we will get all this done before
that orgy of egg salad and tuna fish known as lunch.”

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6 Responses to Mini-reviews: Picnic, Lighting: Poems and Ballistics: Poems by Billy Collins

  1. Melissa
    Twitter: myeclecticbooks

    I really need to read more poetry-Iloved it when I was a teen but have fallen away from it!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Melissa – I went through a stage when I didn’t read poetry at all – and Collins, along with Wendell Berry and Madeleine L’Engle, were three of the poets who re-introduced me to the genre, and made me love it.

  2. Beth Hoffman says:

    Oh how I love Billy Collins! And like you, I find his work so honest and beautifully simple that it’s a joy to read.

  3. Ali
    Twitter: worducopia

    Billy Collins is my very favorite poet. I love the way he takes ordinary moments and makes them into something beautiful, all while making me laugh.