WINNER—BEST POETRY—GOODREADS CHOICE AWARDS
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
NEWSWEEK/THE DAILY BEAST
Billy Collins is widely acknowledged as a prominent player at the table of modern American poetry. And in this smart, lyrical, and mischievous collection of poetry, which covers the everlasting themes of love and loss, youth and aging, solitude and union, Collins’s verbal gifts are on full display.
Note to Readers: adjusting the size of the type on your e-reading device may affect the line formatting of this eBook. We have formatted the eBook so that any words that get bumped to a new line in a poem will be noticeably indented.
The 1990s belonged to Billy Collins in the same way that the 1980s belonged to Robert Fulghum (All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten). Collins's gently ironic, gently elegiac work the mirror image of, say, Jonathan Franzen's suburban delvings has slowly constructed a pitch-perfect purgatory, and this death-themed ninth collection seems to want to make it as literal as possible: it opens as the speaker stands "before the joined grave of my parents" and asks, "What do you think of my new glasses?" In a poem titled "Hell," the speaker has "a feeling that is much worse/ than shopping for a mattress in a mall,// of greater duration without question,/ and there is no random pitchforking here,/ no licking flames to fear,/ only this cavernous store with its maze of bedding." That this feeling is never quite articulated over the course of 50-odd poems is not to its detriment: despite the prosaic settings and everyday language, Collins is after the big questions: of life, death, and how to live. But the world is not of his making, and his is a temperament oddly suited to a world where "the correct answer" to questions like why the stars appear as they do, strike "not like a bolt of lightning/ but more like a heavy bolt of cloth."