I don’t often review poetry here, not because I don’t read poetry but more because I tend to dip in and out of it, reading a little here and a little there as I come across it. I don’t usually sit down to read a volume of poetry in its entirety (does anyone?), even though I do have my favorites poets. Billy Collins is definitely one of them.
Collins’ style is lyrical but also tangible. He uses imagery to convey everyday experiences in a way that feels like he is speaking directly to you. He uses the technique of asking questions to engage the reader, to draw them in and get them to share his world view and his sense of wonder. His writing is clever and touching and frequently hilarious, as he often uses irony to convey humor. If you’ve never heard him read his poetry aloud, it’s definitely worth going to YouTube and watching videos of him. Hearing him read his own work (with a deadpan delivery) reveals layers that might not always be evident from reading it in print.
This is Collins’ first volume of poetry in 12 years, and in it he includes older stuff from previous collections alongside new poems. It contains some of my favorites of his–The Lanyard, Litany–as well as many I had never read before but nonetheless enjoyed. Baby Listening and Bathtub Families both showcase Collins’ love for playing with language, with the meaning and nuance behind words. He also writes about the business of writing, of what it means to be a poet trying to create something new in the shadow of the rich history of all the literature that has already been written (The Trouble with Poetry, If This Were a Job I’d Be Fired).
If you’ve never read Collins before, Aimless Love is a great place to start, and if you’re already a fan, you’ll find plenty of new stuff to enjoy here. Highly recommended.
Go, little book,
out of this house and into the world,
carriage made of paper rolling toward town
bearing a single passenger
beyond the reach of this jittery pen
and far from the desk and the nosy gooseneck lamp.
It is time to decamp,
put on a jacket and venture outside,
time to be regarded by other eyes,
bound to be held in foreign hands.
So off you go, infants of the brain,
with a wave and some bits of fatherly advice:
stay out as late as you like,
don’t bother to call or write,
and talk to as many strangers as you can.
Thanks so much to Random House and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book and giving me a chance to share my review.
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