Sailing Alone Around the Room : New and selected poems

by Billy Collins

Paper Book, 2001





New York : Random House, c2001.


Sailing Alone Around the Room, by America#146;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.

User reviews

LibraryThing member angelovesposito
I carry this book with me. Billy Collins is readable and enjoyable.
LibraryThing member LeHack
One of my favorite poets. Poems about life, nature and everyday things.
LibraryThing member jennyo
I love Billy Collins. His poems are beautiful and often really witty. One of my favorites in this collection is "Another Reason Why I Don't Keep a Gun in the House".

This book is one I dip into often.
LibraryThing member SunnyPetunia
Billy Collins has this extraordinary ability to portray the beauty in every moment of life. Whether it's eating an apple, or watching a storm cleave it's way across his backyard. His poems truly allow the reader to transcend ordinary life and realize the deep beauty and interconnectedness of life.
LibraryThing member Iralell
If you want to read accessible, but great poetry, read Billy Collins. Nostalgia, chuckles and things that make you go "hmmm."
LibraryThing member Bellettres
I love this man's poetry!! I picked up this book on the recommendation of a friend, and was bowled over by the apparently simple poems that kept repeating themselves in my head and that I wanted to go back and read several times. I particularly like "Books," but there are dozens of others that got
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my brain working. He's unpretentious, yet profound. Poetry is not my favorite genre, but I am enthusiastic about this particular poet.
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LibraryThing member MusicMom41
This anthology contains a generous selection of poems from four of his books published between 1988 and 1998 plus a group of new poems. Collins uses a wide range of subjects; he seems to be able to write a poem about anything that pops into his mind and many poems reveal his process of thought as
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he is composing them. Two of my favorite subjects that Collins writes about are art and music. I also particularly enjoy his “poems about poems” and this volume has some excellent examples of these which would make a great introduction to poetry in high school.

Some poems start out about one subject but seem to change direction mid-verse. Once in a while a poem will seem to have a surreal quality. I find his work intriguing and feel he creates a connection between himself and his reader that makes his work seem personal.
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LibraryThing member jon1lambert
So simple yet so deep are the poems of Billy Collins. They bring a smile to the face.
LibraryThing member fsmichaels
Lovely poems, poems that illuminate something you've felt about your life and that stay with you afterwards - "But tonight, the lion of contentment has placed a warm, heavy paw on my chest..."
LibraryThing member CassieLM
Of all the poetry books I own, this is my favorite. Billy Collins is such a masterful poet. He brings both poignancy and humor to his poems. I was able to go to a reading of his a few years ago and was completely blown away. Collins is a brilliant poet and this volume is a brilliant selection of
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his writing. If I were stranded on a desert island this is one of the books I would want to have with me.
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LibraryThing member dandelionroots
I enjoyed several selections from The Art of Drowning section, otherwise... nope.

But tomorrow, dawn will come the way I picture her,
barefoot and disheveled, standing outside my window
in one of the fragile cotton dresses of the poor.
She will look in at me with her thin arms extended,
offering a
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handful of birdsong and a small cup of light.
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LibraryThing member KRaySaulis
Half of Collin's poems I finish shaking my head and laughing. The other half I finish breathless, amazed he could formulate the thoughts he did. He's indescribable.
LibraryThing member Smiler69
I'm not a natural to poetry; I really have to work at it and make a special effort to make time for it and pay attention, which is odd, because I have my quiet and unexpressed poetic way of looking at the world, but too often the language of individual poets is obscure to me, the imagery too
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specific or too filled with references I don't understand, rhythms I can't pick up on, moods I'm not in tune with. Billy Collins is new to me, and I decided to give this poetry collection a try after seeing a few of his best poems on Joe's threads. This collection gathers some "new" selections as of 2001, as well as older ones from collections from The Apple That Astonished Paris (1988), Questions About Angels (1991) The Art of Drowning (1995), and Picnic, Lightning (1998), from which comes one of my absolute favourites, which Joe transcribed in full on one of his threads, called Victoria's Secret. It's rather long, so here here are just the first three of nine verses:

Victoria's Secret

The one in the upper left-hand corner
is giving me a look
that says I know you are here
and I have nothing better to do
for the remainder of human time
than return your persistent but engaging stare.
She is wearing a deeply scalloped
flame-stitch halter top
with padded push-up styling
and easy side-zip tap pants.

The one on the facing page, however,
who looks at me over her bare shoulder,
cannot hide the shadow of annoyance in her brow.
You have interrupted me,
she seems to be saying,
with your coughing and your loud music.
Now please leave me alone;
Let me finish whatever it was I was doing
in my organza-trimmed
whisperweight camisole with
keyhole closure and a point d'esprit mesh back.

I wet my thumb and flip the page.
Here, the one who happens to be reclining
in a satin and lace merry widow
with an inset lace-up front,
decorated underwire cups and bodice with lace ruffles along the bottom
and hook-and-eye closure in the back,
is wearing a slightly contorted expression,
her head thrust back, mouth partially open,
a confusing mixture or pain and surprise
as if she had stepped on a tack
just as I was breaking down
her bedroom door with my shoulder.

What appealed tremendously to me about this particular poem I guess is I heard an inner voice, or was it the voice of my own mother maybe, who has a mean sense of humour and has always liked to put words in the mouths of the models on the glossy magazines we always had laying around the house, so there was something familiar about it, which took nothing away from the humour of it, and just made it all that more engaging in fact. Collins often writes poems about the process of writing poetry which are surprisingly appealing. There’s often a sense of playfulness in his work, though in his “new” work, there is more talk of death, since it seems he lost his mother around 2001 and was quite understandably more focused on themes of death and dying, but not always. My favourite poem from that particular collection is about a dog and like so much of his work, just seems so spot on:


The way the dog trots out the front door
every morning
without a hat or an umbrella,
without any money
or the keys to her doghouse
never fais to fill the saucer of my heart
with milky admiration.

Who provides a finer example
of a life without encumbrance—
Thoreau in his curtainless hut
with a single plate, a single spoon?
Gandhi with his staff and his holy diapers?

Off she goes into the material world
with nothing but her brown coat
and her modest blue collar,
following only her wet nose,
the twin portals of her steady breathing,
followed only by the plume of her tail.

If only she did not shove the cat aside
every morning
and eat all his food
what a model of self-containment she would be,
what a paragon of earthly detachment.
If only she were not so eager
for a rub behind the ears,
so acrobatic in her welcomes,
if only I were not her god.
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LibraryThing member lycomayflower
This is probably the first time I've read a poetry collection and really felt like I "got" all of it. And I truly enjoyed the whole thing! I *can* be taught! (Or maybe I just hadn't found the thing that clicked?) Some of favorites were "Fishing on the Susquehanna in July," "The Death of the Hat,"
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and "Nightclub."
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