Title: Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems
Author: Billy Collins
Publisher: Random House
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: ARC from publisher for reviewer program through Library Thing
Number of pages: 256
Billy Collins is truly a national treasure. He is everything a poet should be: lyrical, humorous, insightful, pensive, wry, tongue-in-cheek, thoughtful, self-effacing. He takes the simple moments in life and demonstrates how full they are. He sees things, tastes things, hears things, feels things that most of us simply miss.
It is hard for me to review this book, because I’ve said so much about Collins already, in my National Poetry Month post, and my reviews of his previous books: Picnic, Lightning and Ballistics and Questions About Angels.
Aimless Love is a perfect kind of collection, because it highlights the best poems from his previous collections, and also gives his readers some new gems, like this one that resonated with me, since my daughter will turn 17 this month.
“To My Favorite 17-Year-Old High School Girl”
Do you realize that if you had started
building the Parthenon on the day you were born
you would be all done in only one more year?
Of course, you couldn’t have done it alone,
so never mind, you’re fine just as you are.
You are loved simply for being yourself.
But did you know at your age Judy Garland
was pulling down $15,000 a picture,
Joan of Arc was leading the French army to victory,
and Blaise Pascal had cleaned up his room?
No wait, I mean he had invented the calculator.
Of course, there will be time for all that later in your life
after you come out of your room
and begin to blossom, or at least pick up all your socks.
For some reason, I keep remembering that Lady Jane Grey
was Queen of England when she was only fifteen,
but then she was beheaded, so never mind her as a role model.
A few centuries later, when he was your age,
Franz Schubert was doing the dishes for his family
but that did not keep him from composing two symphonies,
four operas, and two complete Masses as a youngster.
But of course that was in Austria at the height
of romantic lyricism, not here in the suburbs of Cleveland.
Frankly, who cares if Annie Oakley was a crack shot at 15
or if Maria Callas debuted as Tosca at 17?
We think you are special by just being you,
playing with your food and staring into space.
By the way, I lied about Schubert doing the dishes,
but that doesn’t mean he never helped out around the house.
Billy Collins is the Everyman’s poet, and even if you think you’re not a poetry reader, you should give his work a try. He just might change your mind.