Monday, July 8, 2013

Ballistics: poems

by Billy Collins
New York : Random House, c2008.

In this book of poems, former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins ruminates on the everyday, love, divorce, solitude, and more.

The poems are free verse with two or three lines per stanza and hardly a rhyme, but full of succinct and memorable images such as in "Divorce":
Once, two spoons in bed,
now tined forks

across a granite table
and the knives they have hired.
It's not dense, but it's not simple, either, as I ponder the layers of meaning in the imagery. Some of his poems are playful, such as "Adage," which begins,
When it's late at night and branches
are banging against the windows,
you might think that love is just a matter

of leaping out of the frying pan of yourself
into the fire of someone else,
but it's a little more complicated than that.
He then proceeds to pick apart love and adages, and cleverly turn their meanings to his purposes. Every now and then, he captured a feeling that I instantly understood but could never put into words, such as a reaction of sorrow and guilt "On the Death of a Next-Door Neighbor":
The harmony of this house, not his,
might be missing a voice,
the hallways jumpy with the cry of the telephone --
This was my first collection of Billy Collins' poems, and won't be the last.

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