In this moving and playful collection, Billy Collins touches on an array of subjects—love, death, solitude, youth, and aging—delving deeper than ever before into the intricate folds of life.
The latest from former U.S. laureate Collins (The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems) again shows the deft, often self-mocking touch that has made him one of America's bestselling poets: while this volume hardly breaks new ground, it should fly off the shelves. To his jokes about, and against, his own poetizing, Collins now adds two new emphases: on life in France, where (to judge by the poems) he has spent some time and (more pervasively) a preoccupation with the end of life. Collins is never carefree, but he is, as always, accessible and high-spirited, making light even when telling himself that nothing lasts: "Vermont, Early November" finds the poet in his kitchen, wringing his signature charm from the eternal carpe diem theme, "determined to seize firmly/ the second Wednesday of every month." For Collins, such are his stock in trade, humorous and serious at once. His tongue-in-cheek assault on the "gloom and doubt in our poetry" is his only remedy for the loneliness that (even for him) shadows all poems: "this is a poem, not a novel," he laments, "and the only characters here are you and I,/ alone in an imaginary room/ which will disappear after a few more lines."