Aimless Love : new and selected poems

by Billy Collins

Hardcover, 2013





New York : Random House, [2013]


Presents a volume of more than fifty new poems accompanied by a generous gathering from the author's collections of the past decade, lending insight into his overall poetic achievements and his use of playful, ironic, and melodic language.

User reviews

LibraryThing member ndrose
A good reader of poetry, Auden said, should like lists. Certainly a reader of Billy Collins had better like them: at the center of many of his best poems is a whimsical catalog. Homer had his ships, and Whitman the teeming multifariousness of a continent. Collins likes to turn out the pockets of
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his mind and show us its chimerical juxtapositions: prodigies and parenting (“at your age...Joan of Arc was leading the French army to victory,/ and Blaise Pascal had cleaned up his room”); married love and Michael Caine; and his lists, too, are more often of the improbable or impossible than the (even ostensibly) actual, “the animals/ who were forgotten by the Ark.”

So there are subjunctive lists: books that might be shot (“Ballistics”), possible poems (“The Suggestion Box”); and negative lists: a wry and witty variation on Lamb’s “Dream Children” (“they all made me as proud/ as I was on the day they failed to be born”); “Horoscopes for the Dead”; natural wonders he didn’t see (“The Sandhill Cranes of Nebraska”).

This apophatic method, even as it slyly reminds us of the compensatory powers of imagination, turns into a favorite game for Collins, which might be called Green Eggs and Ham for Grownups:

I have brought neither book nor newspaper
since reading material is considered cheating.
Eating alone, they say, means eating alone,
not in the company of Montaigne
or the ever-engaging Nancy Mitford.
(“Dining Alone”)

The negations ascend very aptly to self-parody in the mock-sonnet “Looking for a Friend in a Crowd of Arriving Passengers” (13 lines of “Not John Whalen” with a sting in the tail: “John Whalen.”)

That poem is pure joke, but Collins is also funny when he is not kidding, as in a very delicately handled poem about the asymmetry of love between parent and child (“The Lanyard”):

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted teaspoons of medicine to my lips,
set cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied....

There is a good deal of stylistic courage, handsomely repaid in this poem, in the risk of such self-puncturing shifts in tone. Collins is in fact very often just a rhyming habit away from sounding like Ogden Nash, a line he shows us he is not afraid to cross in the delightful “Lesson for the Day,” in which he contemplates a possible sequel to Marianne Moore’s poem “To a Steam Roller”:

And no one wants to avoid seeing
a flattened Marianne Moore hanging out to dry
on a clothesline or propped up
as a display in a store window more than I.
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LibraryThing member mykl-s
The strength of Billy Collins poems are often in the final stanza, where he sometimes sums up, sometimes surprises, sometimes both.
In “Osprey,” I learn at the end why Osprey is the poem’s name.
In “Flock,” the final line takes me back to the beginning and sweeps me through the verses
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again, pleasure increasing.
As an old man, I can enjoy the scene and the story in “Old Man Eating Alone in a Chinese Restaurant,” enjoy it as much in this book as I did some years ago.
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LibraryThing member SandSing7
This was my first exposure to the work of Billy Collins, and I will certainly be going back for more. This whole book made me smile in a contented way like I was slowly sipping a martini on a summer's evening. Beautifully simple and insightful.
LibraryThing member jnwelch
Billy Collins' poems make for good company. How many poets can you say that about? He has a light, engaging touch even when taking on darker topics. You can share your favorites with friends and get a response other than, why in the world do you waste time reading poetry? As one critic said, when
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you look up the word "accessible", you find him grinning back at you.

His newest collection, Aimless Love, combines new poems with selected ones from his Nine Horses, The Trouble With Poetry, Ballistics and Horoscopes For the Dead. They're all worthwhile reading, and I've already quoted some on my thread, e.g. Litany (making fun of poetic comparisons: "You are the white apron of the baker/and the marsh birds suddenly in flight. /However, you are not the wind in the orchard/the plums on the counter/ or the house of cards"), and No Time (where his father in the cemetery rises up from his grave "to give me that look/ of knowing disapproval/ while my mother calmly tells him to lie back down").

One of the most moving is Lanyard, about a gift he made for his mother:

The other day as I was ricocheting slowly
off the pale blue walls of this room,
bouncing from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on floor,
I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word "lanyard".

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send me more suddenly into the past -
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid thin plastic straps
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that's what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand, again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
And I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted teaspoons of medicine to my lips,
set cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim.
And, I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift - not the archaic truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hands,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

* * * * *

Five stars.
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LibraryThing member Yogamom67
Aimless Love by Billy Collins

Collins' poems illuminate the many small mysteries, pleasures, and dilemmas of our ordinary lives, as well as our occasional magical thinking and the power with which we imbue everyday objects.

He's often at his best when describing those quotidian predicaments we find
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ourselves in and the silly stories we make up to help us move past those moments. One such example is the poem "Quandary" where Collins struggles over what to do with overripe apple that he really doesn't want to eat, but feels he should. Finally he decides to pitch it - "hoping to hit on the head of a murderer or one of the filthy rich out on a stroll."

Collins' poetic nature is nowhere more apparent than when he is writing about the pleasures of reading, writing, and the English language, as well as his own enjoyment and confidence in his ability to use words to describe his world. "I think that what I'm really saying is that language is better than reality" ("Bathtub Familes"). In another poem, Collins laments that "the trouble with poetry is that it encourages the writing of more poetry." That he can't help himself is evident in "Returning the Pencil to the Tray," in which Collins talks about not ever writing another poem, even as he does.

While most of Collins poems are a page or more long, I also enjoyed his shorter pieces, including his haiku-like "Divorce" -

Once, two spoons in bed,
now tined forks

across a granite table
and the knives they have hired.

Collins' poetry is both earnest and honest, without the self-importance (and often indulgences) sometimes found in other poets' works. Several poems point out his own fallacies and prejudices. His self-critique is not mean spirited, however. Rather, in "Old Man Eating Alone in a Chinese Restaurant" Collins describes his feelings of relief and gratitude for his luck in resisting the temptation of a young poet to ascribe despair and loneliness to man eating alone, now knowing for himself the pleasures of a solitary meal accompanied by a good book.

Collins' work is deceptively light, almost transparent - appearing more like an angel food cake than a chocolate torte. There is a brevity of words in his poetry - as he straddles the line between telling too much and not enough. His poems are often funny - rarely does Collins take himself too seriously, and when he does, he makes fun of this, as well.

His analogies are simple. You won't need a pick or a shovel to understand these poems. They aren't profound. I don't think that profoundness is what Collins is going for here. Rather his work reflects a simple, but certain engagement with life and its many delights and perplexities.

This is a wonderful book for someone who has read little or none of Collin's work, as it includes poems from four previous works, as well as several new poems not previously published.

I received a free copy of "Aimless Love" from Library Things Early Reviewers Program. This is no way affected my review.
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LibraryThing member realbigcat
Aimless Love by Billy Collins is another poetry hit if there is such a thing. Collins who is often referred to as "Poet to the People" truly lives up to the title in his new book. Some of these poems are from his previous works and then there are new poems as well. Collins beauty is in his
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simplicity. The rhythm of his verse often taking the mundane and crafting it into a thing of beauty. He takes everyday life and makes it relatable. While any poetry lover would enjoy Collin's work and I have many favorites I think he saved the best for last. As this review is being written close to 9/11, Collins closes out his book with a haunting poem titles "The Names." I think this poem is so moving that it could easily be used in any 9/11 memorial event. I have read many of Billy Collins previous works and "Aimless Love" is every bit as good.
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LibraryThing member literary.jess
For the uninitiated, "Aimless Love" is a wonderful anthology, providing a sweeping introduction to the poetry of Billy Collins. Many of these poems are worth reading and re-reading in order to get to the true depth of emotion. Reading this work, it is not hard to see why Collins is considered a
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master of his craft.
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LibraryThing member jessicamhill
I am not an avid reader of poetry, but I have much respect for the work of Billy Collins. I have always found it unpretentious and accessible. His recent collection, Aimless Love, did not disappoint. With a compilation of several of his older works as well as 51 new poems, I found new treasures and
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revisited old ones.
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LibraryThing member lucybrown
Billy Collins's poetry is that fine meeting place of the ordinary and sublime. In Aimless Love, a collection of both new and old poems, his subject matter is most often the stuff of everyday life, a noisy typewriter, a lanyard, eating alone. Similarly his language is casual, never erudite. Yet his
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vision is never ordinary. He explores the tiny mysteries of life as most of us live it, and transfuses the prosaic with a wonderousness. Like William Carlos Williams, he is a poet who knows very well that "so much depends on the red wheelbarrow glazed with rain."
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LibraryThing member DonnaMarieMerritt
AIMLESS LOVE is a delight. The first poem hooked me, with the reader getting a “print-fix for the day.” Of course, I’ve been a Billy Collins fan since I stumbled upon his SAILING ALONE AROUND THE ROOM (one of my all-time favorite books of poetry).

Collins has a way of connecting with people
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on a personal level. You’re tempted to think of it as poetry about ordinary things in plain language, but when you reread a poem, you’ll see that there are marvelous twists and ways of looking at things in an unusual way. There were some phrases that were poems all by themselves: “under the roof of a paragraph”; “the evening wedding of the knife and fork”; “the banging of the water hammer that will frighten the cold out of the room”; “sentinel thorns, whose employment it is to guard the rose”; “as the sun helps itself down the sky”… I could fill this review with his unique word play alone.

And so many pieces spoke to my poet’s heart. Are poets able to ever just look around without feeling the need to write about what we see? Does someone else always have the next great topic in mind that he or she is sure we should turn into a poem? “Villanelle” (one of the NEW in NEW AND SELECTED here) made me laugh as that form (dating back to the late 1500s) seems to be hot again these days and I’ve been avoiding trying my hand at one.

If you thumb through my copy of AIMLESS, you’ll see it splattered with underlined words and whole stanzas bracketed and highlighted lines and inked hearts on the ones I can’t get out of my head.

From “The Trouble with Poetry” (originally from his book of the same title):
the trouble with poetry is
that it encourages the writing of more poetry

I hope it does, Mr. Collins. I’m already looking forward to the next book.
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LibraryThing member jennyo
First of all, a confession: I received this copy of Aimless Love as part of LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program. But I'm pretty selective with the books I request in that program, and Billy Collins is one of my favorite poets, very likely number one on my list. I'm sure I'll end up buying my own
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hardcover copy of this book too.

This is a collection of some of the poems from Nine Horses, The Trouble With Poetry, Ballistics, and Horoscopes for the Dead along with several new poems. I savored this book a few poems at a time over a series of about three or four weeks. I'd read a few before bed, and most nights ended up reading at least four or five out loud to my spouse.

A week or so after I started reading this, I got an email that said Collins is coming to The Paramount in Austin in January. I told my kids I wanted to take them to hear him, and they said, "What has he written?" I spent the next couple of evenings reading several poems out loud to them, and by the time I was through, they were as excited as I was that we'd be going to hear him.

I love Collins because he is so witty, because he loves the sound of words, and because he draws a verbal picture that never fails to delight me.

Favorite poems in this collection include:

Hippos on Holiday
Bathtub Families
Divorce (four perfect little lines)
This Little Piggy Went to Market
Hangover (the kids laughed out loud when I read this one)
What She Said (my daughter could read this one PERFECTLY, I think)
To My Favorite 17-Year-Old High School Girl
The Music of the Spheres (this one made my husband laugh out loud)
"I Love You"
If This Were a Job I'd Be Fired

If you haven't read Collins before, this is a great place to start. But it wouldn't surprise me if you find you need to go get all his other books too.

I am so looking forward to January.
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LibraryThing member kedicat
The much-beloved U.S. poet laureate who brought poetry to the attention of the masses has released another collection of masterfully crafted metaphors and imagery. The first four sections revisit Collins’ favorite, or best, poems from his previous four publications: Nine Horses, The Trouble with
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Poetry, Ballistics, and Horoscopes for the Dead. My favorite of these is the simple, four line poem titled “Divorce”, from Ballistics:

Once, two spoons in bed,
now tined forks

across a granite table
and the knives they have hired.

Such wonderful imagery to succulently and effectively sum up the transformation of a marriage to a divorce.

The fifth and last section of Aimless Love contains new poems that continue to display Collins’ skill with the word. Two of my favorites from this section are “Promenade” and “Quandary.” The poem “Keats: or How I Got My Negative Capability Back” speaks of the time in our lives where we all lose empathy to other things, but hopefully, like Collins, we get our “negative capability back.”

This book is excellent for current Collins fans as well as those who are new to him or the joys of poetry.
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LibraryThing member SigmundFraud
I quite like Billy Collins, my contemporary but Holy Cross not Georgetown. I guess we can excuse him. I have read most of his books. I liked the new poems in this edition and reread some of his old poems to great delight. I recommend highly this book.
LibraryThing member rmckeown
Billy Collins is far and away my favorite poet. His simple language, profound insights, and humorous poems are my ideal, My goal is to write a poem which causes a reader to think, “that reminds me of Billy Collins.” Whenever Collins comes out with a new volume of poetry, I buy and devour a it
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as quickly as I can. Published this month, Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems is his tenth collection.

In this case, I immediately flipped to the last section containing the new poems. Fifty nuggets awaited my attention. My favorite is “Foundling.” “How unusual to be living a life of continual self-expression, / jotting down little things, / noticing a leaf being carried down a stream, / then wondering what will become of me, // and finally to work alone under a lamp / as if everything depended on this, / groping blindly down a page, like someone lost in a forest. // And to think it all began one night / on the steps of a nunnery / where I lay gazing up from a sewing basket, / which was doubling for a proper baby carrier, // staring into the turbulent winter sky, too young to wonder about anything / including my recent abandonment-- / but it was there that I committed // my first act of self-expression, / sticking out my infant tongue / and receiving in return (I can see it now) / a large, pristine snowflake much like any other” (175).

His nature poems also affect me deeply. In “Osprey,” Collins sketches a scene I have lived through myself many times. He writes, “Oh, large brown, thickly-feathered creature / with a distinctive white head, / you, perched on the top branch / of a tree near the lake shore, // as soon as I guide this boat back to the dock / and walk up the grassy path to the house, / before I unzip my windbreaker / and lift the binoculars from around my neck, // before I wash the gasoline from my hands, / before I tell anyone I am back, / and before I hang the ignition key on its nail, / or pour myself a drink-- // I’m thinking a vodka soda with lemon-- / I will look you up in my / illustrated guide to North American birds / and I promise I will learn what you are called” (208).

Collins has written a number of poems about writing and poetry, and this volume contains one about reading. The title is “Reader,” and he wrote: “Looker, gazer, skimmer, skipper, / thumb-licking page turner, peruser, / you getting your print-fix for the day, pencil chewer, not taker, marginalianist / with your checks and X’s / firs-timer or revisiter, / browser, speedster, English Major, / flight-ready girl, melancholy boy, / invisible companion, thief, blind date, perfect stranger-- // that is me rushing to the window / to see if it’s you passing under the shade trees / with a baby carriage or a dog on a leash, / me picking up the phone / to imagine your unimaginable number, me standing by a map of the world / wondering where you are-- / alone on a bench in a train station / or falling asleep, the book sliding to the floor?” (xix).

Aimless Love by Billy Collins is a wonderful way to introduce yourself to his work. I bet you will soon find a collection of all his volumes of poetry, silently standing guard amid the Cs on a bookshelf, patiently awaiting your call. 5 stars [NOTE: All quotes checked against published edition]

--Jim, 10/13/13
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LibraryThing member supermanboidy
The poetry of Billy Collins finds that perfect balance between humor and serious emotion. There's a cynicism in his work that connects with the modern reader, but a gentle reflection that connects with poets of the past. Best read on a fall morning with a cup of coffee on the porch, Billy Collins
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delivers with each and every poem. Truly American in its approach, this poetry will connect to the reader who doesn't usually pick up poetry. Very enjoyable.
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LibraryThing member nnjmom
Billy Collins is truly a national treasure. He is everything a poet should be: lyrical, humorous, insightful, pensive, wry, tongue-in-cheek, thoughtful, self-effacing. He takes the simple moments in life and demonstrates how full they are. He sees things, tastes things, hears things, feels things
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that most of us simply miss.

Aimless Love is a perfect kind of collection, because it highlights the best poems from his previous collections, and also gives his readers some new gems.

Billy Collins is the Everyman's poet, and even if you think you're not a poetry reader, you should give his work a try. He just might change your mind.
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LibraryThing member amillion
Billy Collins is one of those poets who finds the magic or grace in every day minutes or tasks that we perform regularly almost without thinking. Aimless Love is a collection of some older poems with some new ones added -- a great set to keep going back to for a touch of artistry and surprise
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whether about a bowl of cheerios, cup of coffee, a cat's "gifts", the small delights on a usual walk, ...

I've always had trouble with reading many poets whose work make me feel somehow unrefined in not being able to understand their meaning. Thank goodness Billy Collins writes accessible, easy, but profound poetry.. making me truly enjoy and appreciate poetry and find those pieces that resonate with me.
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LibraryThing member abealy
When they speak of the perfection of language, the power in a word, surely they are speaking about Billy Collins.

The everyday notice of the working poet.
The punch clock ignored and time stopped
for that insightful moment when meaning, great meaning,
is revealed.

The everyday becomes transcendent.
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The nondenominational exalted.

The study of minor things.
Reflective moments that point to larger meaning.
A lost chesspiece, missed.
A paper cup.
Wind ripping thru thinning hair.

The remarkable differences inherent in an ordinary event,
a common occurance.
Noted with clarity — the importance of a gesture.

When the poem doesn’t work it is just a little off,
a frame not quite true.
More often the spark is bright and pure.

Take aim.
Billy Collins is always bright and pure.
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LibraryThing member westcott
I really like Billy Collins's poetry. It manages to straddle a good line between the light and the profound. He can create striking images of beauty out of the apparently mundane and he can also tap into real emotion. He's also capable of being very funny. I have one of his other collections (The
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Trouble with Poetry) and another one of his "New and Selected Poems" collections (Sailing around the Room). In some ways, it's impossible to turn down the chance to have more good poetry, but it can be a bit much to plow through nearly 150 poems in one stretch. They start to blur together after a while in that big a group. I think I actually preferred the shorter collection as a reading experience, but now that I've read through it start to finish once, I will love to have all these poems available to me to go back to. I enjoyed them enough that I'm sure I will revisit them.
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LibraryThing member LizzieD
Count me as one of the number who consider Billy Collins a national treasure. His new book, Aimless Love is a selection of poems from Nine Horses, The Trouble with Poetry, Ballistics, and Horoscopes for the Dead plus 51 new poems. This is a perfect introduction to his work or the perfect book for a
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person who doesn't like poetry but would like to try some. Almost every poem is charming. In many, the charm is enhanced by a turn of phrase, an image, a thought that causes a little gasp with the realization that the world is not what it seemed only ten seconds earlier.
I'm grateful to Early Reviewers for my copy; I'm a little angry with myself for cramming the whole thing into less than a month of reading. I'd advise taking it slower. Many of the new poems don't seem fresh to me. Whether that's BC's including inferior material or my own surfeit is the question. I'm sure that a few are not so good ("Looking for a Friend in a Crowd of Arriving Passengers: A Sonnet" and "Cheerios," for instance). Others ("Best Fall" or "Rome in June" or "The Names") will bear rereading with the best of the old. At any rate, I will turn back to this collection often and find joy.
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LibraryThing member Oh_Carolyn
Billy Collins writes one particular kind of poem, and he writes it well. A Collins poem is recognizable by its shape on the page (stanzas of three or four lines, of medium length), by its tendency to flutter from its point of origin for a just a moment, and then alight again a few yards away, like
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a sparrow on a sidewalk.

His poems are cozy but not uncomfortably intimate, clever but not arrogant. Their subjects are work and rest, reading and writing, eating, looking out of windows; in short, the everyday business of being alive in America. As I've written elsewhere, his poetry is perfect for picking up on a whim, while you wait for a friend who's late to dinner, say. You'll be entertained, you'll think, and you might even laugh, but you won't be trying to unknot a metaphor half an hour later while you chew your escarole.

Aimless Love, a collection of new and selected poems due out in October, is no different. Here you'll find a generous armful of poems from four earlier collections (Nine Horses, The Trouble With Poetry, Ballistics, and Horoscopes for the Dead), and about fifty new poems. In the selection of new poems, I found a misstep or two: "Looking for a Friend in a Crowd of Arriving Passengers: A Sonnet" was fourteen lines long (thirteen lines of four syllables, and one of three), but not interesting or funny enough to pull off the joke about not being a sonnet. "Unholy Sonnet #1" is painful in its riff on "Death Be Not Proud" (one of Donne's Holy Sonnets, hence the title); Mr. Collins's lack of technical acumen can't be avoided; he even reaches into Donne's oeuvre to find Donne's once-used words, and these so eclipse Mr. Collins's own efforts that I was rather embarrassed for the poem, and for him.

Still, these are aberrations. for the most part, these new poems, like their predecessors are pleasant, undemanding morsels, with a few gems tossed in ("Rome in June"). I'm all for accessibility in poetry, especially if it draws in new readers, and that, certainly, Mr. Collins can claim as an achievement.

If you have the earlier books, you may want to check this one out of the library to see if you think the fifty new additions are worth the price of admission.

You can find Aimless Love on the shelves on October 22nd.

*A disclaimer: I received this book through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program. I was not compensated for this review, nor was the content of the review dictated or approved by any party.
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LibraryThing member quilted_kat
What can I say about Billy Collins? I have been reading his poetry for years, and he never disappoints. Funny and warm and insightful. This is a much longer collection of poetry than any other I have found of his. It took me a while to read, because after each poem I had to take a break to absorb
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what he said. Just beautiful.
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LibraryThing member nmorrissey
Aimless Love is Billy Collins' first collection of new and previously published poems in several years. I had been looking forward to its release, and was not disappointed. Collins' signature elevation of the mundane to the sublime is everywhere in evidence. I greatly enjoyed revisiting some old
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favorites, and discovering some new stand-outs ("Istanbul" and "Villanelle," among others). Like many other reviewers, I find myself reading Collins with pencil in hand, underlining and bracketing with abandon. Collins' poems generally reward a re-read, which I'm sure is in my near future.
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LibraryThing member Doondeck
Collins makes poetry so accessible. Loved it.
LibraryThing member hefruth
Review of Aimless Love by Billy Collins

I want meaning in the poetry I read or listen to. When a “3-year-old recites poem, ‘Litany’ by Billy Collins” on YouTube, I am strangely much more touched by the poem than when “Billy Collins – Litany” captures the poet reading the same poem,
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also on YouTube. Of course, Collins takes the time to admit he stole part of the poem from a bad poem, but that admission takes something from the poem for me, possibly because of the ego that emerges through the introduction and then is completed in the sarcasm in the poem, punctuated by audience laughter.

Poetry should strike home in my heart and in my head, so that I remember them, carry them with me as I contemplate life, the universe, and all that.

While some of Collins’ poems do that for me, most don’t.

Instead, most of the poems collected in Aimless Love jiggle and dance, attempting to provoke giggles and amusement as though Collins’ is a stand-up comedian or a superfluous Chaucer—who wrote humorous, political and social satire that ended up costing him his life, much like the bitter Socrates enjoying his hemlock.

I fully realize that poetry can be used to entertain. Slam poetry is, after all, an ancient tradition, sometimes taken to offensive heights in America, instead of the duels with words traditional troubadors used to entertain and educate their audience with fast-paced trovos. Even set to music, good poetry means something now and later—like Hitchcock, ruminating over the movie he just saw until he’s home and opens the refrigerator and the problem hits him, his “refrigerator” moment when the movie falls apart because of one fatal flaw. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to know what Hitchcock made of Wallace Stevens’ “The Emperor of Ice Cream?” or Collins’ “Horoscopes for the Dead”?

My husband, who is also a poet and blogger, forgives the superfluity of the many poems in Collins’ collection, reminding me that not every poem can be a treasure, like “Lanyard,” where Collins’ child-self still yearns to thank his mother in a more substantial way than just by giving her the lanyard he made at camp when he was “as sure as a boy could be/ that this useless, worthless thing I wove,/ out of boredom would be enough to make us even” (61).

What touches me most about Collins’ poetry, overall, is the bitterness that creeps in. Like most American men, and many American women, he seems to think sarcasm is witty and the only real way to deal with life’s bitter disappointments. It's sad, really, how many of the poems want to be happy and funny, but the sarcasm weighs them down, and like the dead dog in “Revenant,” the poems end up telling us, “I never liked you – not one bit” (70).
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