Friday, 18 September 2015

The Trouble With Poetry by Billy Collins

This was the second book, along with Guy Gavriel Kay's River of Stars, that I bought myself with a birthday gift certificate from my lovely friend Nele. I have only read one other collection of Billy Collins poetry, but it struck me so much that I needed to own it. I mean, needed to own it, with a deep and abiding desire to have it always around so I could flip through the pages and find favourite poems whenever I wanted.

So now I own a second volume, by a poet who just knocked my socks off the first time I read him, and I know it's never going to be that same joy of discovery. Still, this second book cements him as a poet I really love. There were only a few poems that knocked me on my ass the way several did in Sailing Alone Around The Room, but that's enough, and there were plenty that I found just plain enjoyable.

His poems are not pretentious, do not force the reader to stare blankly at the page, wondering what the hell that was about, and maybe deciding it was brilliant because it was indecipherable. These poems are about life, a good deal of them are about the act of writing poetry, and it's in capturing mundanity, the small moments of everyday life that they shine. This is worthy of having poetry written about it, every one asserts, and in the assertion, it is true.

For me, that's because not only does it connect me to the here and now, to the present, to the many material things around me, his poems often then take a turn that press me to look into the presence of things and to catch a glimpse of something transcendent beyond that.

I'm trying to pick out poems that were particularly striking, but the problem is that my husband and I spent an hour or so reading poetry to each other last week (he Raymond Carver, me Billy Collins), and I was picking through both books I own, and have lost track of which ones go with which book.

There is one though, I know, that is about being buried in pajamas as though sleeping that made me stop for minutes at a time, and brought tears to my eyes. The titular "Trouble With Poetry" is a great deal of fun. "You, Reader," the first poem, also hit hard in its connection of my world with his, of the connections underlying the mundane.

And there are more, I know there are more. Overall, if this didn't hit me quite as hard as Sailing Alone Around the Room, it was no less enjoyable for now knowing what to expect, more or less, from his style. It is still welcoming, conversational, and makes me stop and think, and frequently stop and smile, and very occasionally, stop and cry.



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