Nine Horses, Billy Collins’s first book of new poems since Picnic, Lightning in 1998, is the latest curve in the phenomenal trajectory of this poet’s career. Already in his forties when he debuted with a full-length book, The Apple That Astonished Paris, Collins has become the first poet since Robert Frost to combine high critical acclaim with broad popular appeal. And, as if to crown this success, he was appointed Poet Laureate of the United States for 2001–2002, and reappointed for 2002–2003. What accounts for this remarkable achievement is the poems themselves, quiet meditations grounded in everyday life that ascend effortlessly into eye-opening imaginative realms. These new poems, in which Collins continues his delicate negotiations between the clear and the mysterious, the comic and the elegiac, are sure to sustain and increase his audience of avid readers.
These poems are so deceptively simple yet powerful. Everyday occurences and objects become something magical in the hands of Collins. He both awes me with his skill and gives me hope that maybe I could actually write a decent poem.
I read one of the poems ("Aimless Love") out loud to a friend and actually got chills down my spine, which I don't think has ever happened to me while reading a poem. Collins' poems are spare, no fancy imagery, no overwrought emotions but they distill life into its essence, like holding up a lens that sharpens one's vision of the world.
I look forward to reading more of Collins' poems -- and maybe trying to write a few of my own.
I'm not usually a poetry reader, so this isn't a particularly literary review, but today I've been more watchful for the beauty in the everyday. I'll look for Collins' name in the future if a poetic mood strikes me, and I'm adding Nine Horses to my "books to purchase" list.
Collins captures the beauty of the natural world and of our place within it. He writes of the stages of life and the everyday. And he presents it all in clear and lovely verse. Sometimes he makes surprising but accurate comparisons, sometimes he pops in a twist on the expected, and sometimes he writes something witty and tongue in cheek, but overall and most of the time the poems are infused with a sense of familiarity and comfort. This is an eloquent and pleasing collection to be sure and I'll have to search out his others to allow myself to slip into the plain and profound beauty of his language and imagery again and again.
I walk through the rooms of the house
wondering which would be best to die in.
I read very little poetry. Laughably little, embarrassingly little. But [[Billy Collins]] reminds me here, as he always does, that poetry is not sentimental or schlocky or dull. [Nine Horses: Poems] was just like the other books of his that I've read, slowly, a poem or two a day. There are poems about yearning and love and also poems about the weather or what he sees from the window of a train to Albany and sometimes they are all present in the same poem. I'm sorry to be finished with this slender volume.
Before it was over
I took out a pencil and a notepad
and figured out roughly what was left --
a small box of Octobers, a handful of Aprils,
little time to waste reading a large novel
on the couch every evening,
a few candles flaming in the corners of the room.
a fishbowl of Mondays, a row of Fridays --
yet I cannot come up with anything
better than to strike a match,
settle in under a light blanket,
and open to the first sentence of Clarissa.