The art of drowning

by Billy Collins

Hardcover, 1995





Pittsburgh : University of Pittsburgh Press, c1995.


This collection of poems has a subject matter ranging from the gustatory pleasures of osso buco to an analysis of the handwriting of Keats; from the art form of the calendar pinup to blues music.

User reviews

LibraryThing member jaemaree
this was my intro. to billy collins, and it's well-worth trying first. all of his volumes are fantastic (that i've read). they call him the robert frost of our time.
LibraryThing member abirdman
Billy Collins brought contemporary poetry to the mass market, by writing poems that are fun, good-hearted, and honest. No mysteries, no riddles, just a first rate generous mind observing the world. Inclusive, aww shucks poems on homely topics, sensitive, revealing, and beautifully written. Splendid.
LibraryThing member FolkeB
Billy Collins’ poetry, I believe, is absolutely brilliant. He has said that one of the problems with poetry can be its inaccessibility, the distance created between the poet and the reader when the poet assumes the reader knows the subject and when the poem is unclear. Collins strives to do the
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exact opposite, being as clear as possible to make poetry accessible to everyone. Yet despite their clarity, the depth of Collins’ poems amazes me. He takes, for example, the reality of growing a year older in “On Turning Ten” and beautifully illustrates the personal yet universal reality that with each year we lose some of our innocence, our idealism:

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I would shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalk of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed. (49)

Collins is also quite humorous, his poems having a certain lightness about them no matter what subject matter. In “Nightclub,” he considers the lack of variation to the saying “You are so beautiful and I am a fool / to be in love with you,” recognizing “I have never heard anyone sing / I am so beautiful / and you are a fool to be in love with me” (92).

I would highly recommend this collection for its consistency and accessibility. There was rarely a poem I didn’t enjoy.

Susan K.
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LibraryThing member Cheryl_in_CC_NV
Bear in mind, always, that star ratings are *personal.*? I am neither a poet nor a scholar.?á
I found most of the poems to be instantly forgettable.?á The ones that didn't have so much obvious meaning so as to discourage me from digging deeper, were lame.?á The ones that were more subtle
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were too difficult for me, or referenced allusions only scholars would know.?á imo.?á ymmv.

That being said:


The sun finally goes down like the end
of the Russian novel, and the blinding darkness
over the continent makes me realize

how tired I am of reading and writing,
tire of watching all the dull, horse-drawn sentences
as they plough through fields of paper,

?átired of being dragged on a leash of words
by an author I can never look up and see,
tired of examining the exposed spines of books,

I want to be far from the shores of language,
a boat without passengers, lost at sea,
no correspondence, no thesaurus,

not even a name printed across the bow.
Nothing but silence, the kind that falls
whenever I walk outside with a notebook
and a passing cloud darkens my page.

and from

Driving Myself to a Poetry Reading


There is a part of me that wants
to let go of the wheel, climb over the seat
and fall asleep curled in the back.
This is the part I would like to see
blindfolded some morning, dragged
into a courtyard, and shot.


and from

Piano Lessons


I am learning to play
It Might As Well Be Spring"
but my left hand would rather be jingling
the change in the darkness of my pocket
or taking a nap on an armrest.
I have to drag him into the music
like a difficult and neglected child.
This is the revenge of the one who never gets
to hold the pen or wave good-by,
and now, who never gets to play the melody.

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