Synopses & Reviews
"High, most encouraging tidings" that is how Billy
Collins, the widely read and widely acclaimed poet,
describes the music in his poem about the gospel
singing group The Sensational Nightingales. The same
phrase applies, just as joyfully, to the arrival of Sailing
Alone Around the Room, a landmark collection of
new and selected poems by this Guggenheim Fellow, NPR contributor,
New York Public Library "Literary Lion," and incomparably popular
performer of his own good works.
From four earlier collections, which have secured for him a national
reputation, Collins offers the lyric equivalent of an album of Greatest Hits.
In "Forgetful-ness," memories of the contents of a novel "retire to the
southern hemisphere of the brain, to a little fishing village where there are no
phones." In "Osso Buco," a poem about gustatory pleasure, the "lion of
content-ment" places a warm heavy paw on the poet's chest. In
"Marginalia," he catalogs the scrawled comments of books' previous
readers: " 'Absolutely,' they shout to Duns Scotus and James Baldwin.
'Yes.' 'Bull's-eye.' 'My man!' " And he also serves us a generous portion of
new poems, including "Man Listening to Disc," a jazz trip with headphones,
and "The Iron Bridge," a wildly speculative, moving elegy.
Whether old or new, these poems will catch their readers by exhilarating
surprise. They may begin with irony and end in lyric transcendence. They
may open with humor and close with grief. They may, and often do, begin
with the everyday and end with infinity. Wise, funny, sad, stealthy, and
always perfectly clear, these poems will not be departing for that little
fishing village with no phones for a long, long time. Billy Collins, possessed
of a unique lyric voice, is one of American poetry's most sensational
"Billy Collins writes lovely poems lovely in a way almost nobody's since
Roethke's are. Limpid, gently and consistently startling, more serious than
they seem, they describe all the worlds that are and were and some others
besides." John Updike
"Luring his readers into the poem with humor, Mr. Collins leads them
unwittingly into deeper, more serious places, a kind of journey from the
familiar or quirky to unexpected territory, sometimes tender, often
profound." The New York Times
"A brilliant comic sally...a wonderful, sly, and moving collection." San Francisco Chronicle
Sailing Alone Around the Room, by America's Poet Laureate, Billy Collins, contains both new poems and a generous gathering from his earlier collections The Apple That Astonished Paris, Questions About Angels, The Art of Drowning, and Picnic, Lightning. These poems show Collins at his best, performing the kinds of distinctive poetic maneuvers that have delighted and fascinated so many readers. They may begin in curiosity and end in grief; they may start with irony and end with lyric transformation; they may, and often do, begin with the everyday and end in the infinite. Possessed of a unique voice that is at once plain and melodic, Billy Collins has managed to enrich American poetry while greatly widening the circle of its audience.
Sailing Alone Around the Room, by Americas Poet Laureate, Billy Collins, contains both new poems and a generous gathering from his earlier collections The Apple That Astonished Paris, Questions About Angels, The Art of Drowning, and Picnic, Lightning. These poems show Collins at his best, performing the kinds of distinctive poetic maneuvers that have delighted and fascinated so many readers. They may begin in curiosity and end in grief; they may start with irony and end with lyric transformation; they may, and often do, begin with the everyday and end in the infinite. Possessed of a unique voice that is at once plain and melodic, Billy Collins has managed to enrich American poetry while greatly widening the circle of its audience.
About the Author
Billy Collins, named U.S. Poet Laureate in June 2001 and reappointed to the post in 2002, has published seven collections of poetry, including The Apple That Astonished Paris; Nine Horses; Picnic, Lightning; The Art of Drowning; and Sailing Alone Around the Room. A professor of English at Lehman College of the City University of New York, he lives in Somers, New York.
Table of Contents
section 1.From The apple that astonished Paris (1988) --Another reason why I don't keep a gun in the house --Walking across the Atlantic --Plight of the troubadour --The lesson --Winter syntax --Advice to writers --The rival poet --Insomnia --Earthling --Books --Bar time --My number --Introduction to poetry --The Brooklyn Museum of Art --Schoolsville --section 2.From Questions about angels (1991) --American sonnet --Questions about angels --A history of weather --The death of allegory --Forgetfulness --Candle hat --Student of clouds --The dead --The man in the moon --The wires of the night --Vade mecum --Not touching --The history teacher --First reader --Purity --Nostalgia --section 3.From The art of drowning (1995) --Consolation --Osso Buco --Directions --Sunday morning with the sensational nightingales --The best cigarette --Days --Tuesday, June 4, 1991 --Canada --On turning ten --Workshop --My heart --Budapest --Dancing toward Bethlehem --Monday morning --Center --Design --Pinup --Piano lessons --The blues --Man in space --Nightclub --Some final words --section 4.From Picnic, lightning (1998) --Fishing on the Susquehanna in July --To a stranger born in some distant country hundreds of years from now --I chop some parsley while listening to Art Blakey's version of "Three blind mice" --Afternoon with Irish cows --Marginalia --Some days --Picnic, lightning --Morning --Bonsai --Shoveling snow with Buddha --Snow --Japan --Victoria's secret --Lines composed over three thousand miles from Tintern Abbey --Paradelle for Susan --Lines lost among trees --Taking off Emily Dickinson's clothes --The night house --Splitting wood --The death of the hat --Passengers --Where I live --Aristotle --section 5.New poems --Dharma --Reading an anthology of Chinese poems of the Sung Dynasty, I pause to admire the length and clarity of their titles --Snow day --Insomnia --Madmen --Sonnet --Idiomatic --The waitress --The butterfly effect --Serenade --The three wishes --Pavilion --The movies --Jealousy --Tomes --Man listening to disc --Scotland --November --The iron bridge --The flight of the reader.
Review A Day
"The most obvious thing to say about Collins's poetry is that it is funny, in an accessible and immediately familiar way. But his true poetic gift is something more than a sense of humor; it is a genuine, if often debased, wit. Wit is the yoking together of heterogeneous things, and when it is properly used it has an unsettling power. It forces hostile ideas and associations into a disturbing intimacy: Donne's 'bracelet of bright hair around the bone,' Eliot's 'fear in a handful of dust.' And while Collins's angle of vision is never genuinely strange, it is skewed just enough to be surprising." Adam Kirsch, The New Republic
(read the entire New Republic review