Poetry 180 : a turning back to poetry

by Billy Collins

Paper Book, 2003




New York : Random House Trade Paperbacks, c2003.


A dazzling new anthology of 180 contemporary poems, selected and introduced by America's Poet Laureate, Billy Collins. Inspired by Billy Collins's poem-a-day program with the Library of Congress, Poetry 180 is the perfect anthology for readers who appreciate engaging, thoughtful poems that are an immediate pleasure. A 180-degree turn implies a turning back-in this case, to poetry. A collection of 180 poems by the most exciting poets at work today, Poetry 180 represents the richness and diversity of the form, and is designed to beckon readers with a selection of poems that are impossible not to love at first glance. Open the anthology to any page and discover a new poem to cherish, or savor all the poems, one at a time, to feel the full measure of contemporary poetry's vibrance and abundance. With poems by Catherine Bowman, Lucille Clifton, Billy Collins, Dana Gioia, Edward Hirsch, Galway Kinnell, Kenneth Koch, Philip Levine, Thomas Lux, William Matthews, Frances Mayes, Paul Muldoon, Naomi Shihab Nye, Sharon Olds, Katha Pollitt, Mary Jo Salter, Charles Simic, David Wojahn, Paul Zimmer, and many more.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member ricklibrarian
Billy Collins started a program called “Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools�€? when he was United States Poet Laureate in 2001. A website was created, and relatively short, accessible poems by recent (mostly living) poets were posted. High schools were urged to read a poem a day
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over their public address systems to promote poetry reading as an every day event.

In his introduction to the companion book Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry, he says that he chose to work with high schools because that was “the place where poetry goes to die.â€? He saw right away the pain students suffered trying to read Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot, whose poems were still being presented by many textbooks as “modernâ€? poetry more than fifty years after publication. The problem with poetry of the 1930s and 1940s, Collins says, is that difficulty and obscurity were considered virtues by the intellectuals who dominated the publishing of the time. Readers turned to novels for their pleasure and poetry lost much of its following.

Collins chose to start the collection with one of his own poems to address the need for poetry education reform. “Introduction to Poetryâ€? ends with the following lines:

But all they wanted to do
is tie the poem to a chair with a rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

Sound familiar?

I am currently reading Poetry 180 for a second time, preparing for a book club discussion later in the month. I suspect we will have a lot of fun pointing out our favorite works from the collection. I particularly like the poems that tell humorous stories, such as “Mrs. Midasâ€? by Carol Ann Duffy, in which the wife of the king tries to cope with her husband’s turning everything to gold. Not all of the poems are funny. “The Cordâ€? by Leanne O’Sullivan, “I’m a Fool to Love Youâ€? by Cornelius Eady, and “Wheelsâ€? by Jim Daniels tell stories of teenage uncertainty, dysfunctional parents, and the death of siblings. I think there will be much to discuss.

While this book seems to be stocked by all the major book chains, many public libraries seem to be missing the boat. I see it is in only eleven of the approximately eighty libraries in the SWAN database of the Metropolitan Library System. It is an inexpensive volume collecting many of today’s best poets. Every library should have it.
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LibraryThing member debnance
Recent American Poet Laureates have been very focused on bringing poetry to the people. Billy Collins, appointed Poet Laureate of the United States in 2001, created a list of 180 poems that were immediately accessible, reader friendly, designed to be read, one for each day of the school year, at
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high schools across the country. This book is a compilation of those poems. Like Garrison Keillor's book, Good Poems, this book is excellent for people who think poetry is too removed from every day life. Recommended.
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LibraryThing member MarieAlt
Well, I had my brother read 3 of the poems and as a songwriter, guy, nonreader, he liked them. There were quite a few I very much enjoyed, some that I somewhat enjoyed, and just a few I couldn't connect to. Overall, though, a great introductory collection, and I wish it were possible to use this
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program in the local schools.
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LibraryThing member trishrobertsmiller
This is the book of poetry to make people love poetry who think they hate it. It's also for people who love poetry.
LibraryThing member MugsyNoir
From 2003, a solid compilation of a broad sample of poets by Billy Collins.


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