Before I read this collection, I had a deep and long-standing aversion to free verse poetry. Here, Billy Collins shows that it is possible for free verse to be truly beautiful and inspiring, as well as humorous and entertaining. In "The Lanyard," on page 45, he describes the feelings of a young boy giving his mother a lanyard made at summer camp. "Eastern Standard Time," on page 23, is addressed to "only those in my own time zone / this proper slice of longitude / that runs from pole to snowy pole / down the globe through Montreal to Bogota." In the title poem of the collection, on page 83, he tells us that "the trouble with poetry is / that is encourages the writing of more poetry, / more guppies crowding the fish tank . . ." Making the reader want to laugh and cry by turns, this book is a gem.
Publishers Weekly, 2005-08-15 Two years after his very visible stint as U.S. poet laureate, Collins (Sailing Alone Around the Room) remains one of the nation's most popular poets. His light touch, his self-deprecating pathos and his unerring sense of his audience (nothing too difficult, but nothing too lowbrow) explain much of that popularity and remain evident in this eighth collection. "The birds are in their trees,/ the toast is in the toaster,/ and the poets are at their windows," the volume begins: the poet as sensitive everyman, moved if not baffled by literary legacies, and attracted to simple pleasures, constructs a series of similar days and scenes. "In the Moment" depicts "a day in June," "the kind that gives you no choice/ but to unbutton your shirt/ and sit outside in a rough wooden chair"; "I Ask You" opens on "an ordinary night at the kitchen table." Collins's comic gifts are also much in evidence: "Special Glasses" describes spectacles that "filter out the harmful sight of you"; "The Introduction" makes fun of footnotes and obscurities in other poets' poems. The dominant note, however, is a gentle sadness, accomplished with care and skill, sometimes (as in "The Lanyard") garnished by autobiographical wisdom. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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