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The Trouble with Poetry

And Other Poems

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Hardcover published by Random House (Random House Publishing Group)

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About This Book
Playfulness, spare elegance, and wit epitomize the poetry of Billy Collins. With his distinct voice and accessible language, America’s two-term Poet Laureate has opened the door to poetry for countless people for whom it might otherwise remain closed.

Like the present book’s title, Collins’s poems are filled with mischief, humor, and irony, “Poetry speaks to all people, it is said, but here I would like to address / only those in my own time zone”–but also with quiet observation, intense wonder, and a reverence for the everyday: “The birds are in their trees, / the toast is in the toaster, / and the poets are at their windows. / They are at their windows in every section of the tangerine of earth–the Chinese poets looking up at the moon, / the American poets gazing out / at the pink and blue ribbons of sunrise.”

Through simple language, Collins shows that good poetry doesn’t have to be obscure or incomprehensible, qualities that are perhaps the real trouble with most “serious” poetry: “By now, it should go without saying / that what the oven is to the baker / and the berry-stained blouse to the drycleaner / so the window is to the poet.”

In this dazzling new collection, his first in three years, Collins explores boyhood, jazz, love, the passage of time, and, of course, writing–themes familiar to Collins’s fans but made new here. Gorgeous, funny, and deeply empathetic, Billy Collins’s poetry is a window through which we see our lives as if for the first time.


From the Hardcover edition.
Show less
Playfulness, spare elegance, and wit epitomize the poetry of Billy Collins. With his distinct voice and accessible language, America’s two-term Poet Laureate has opened the door to poetry for countless people for whom it might otherwise remain closed.

Like the present book’s title, Collins’s poems are filled with mischief, humor, and irony, “Poetry speaks to all people, it is said, but here I would like to address / only those in my own time zone”–but also with quiet observation, intense wonder, and a reverence for the everyday: “The birds are in their trees, / the toast is in the toaster, / and the poets are at their windows. / They are at their windows in every section of the tangerine of earth–the Chinese poets looking up at the moon, / the American poets gazing out / at the pink and blue ribbons of sunrise.”

Through simple language, Collins shows that good poetry doesn’t have to be obscure or incomprehensible, qualities that are perhaps the real trouble with most “serious” poetry: “By now, it should go without saying / that what the oven is to the baker / and the berry-stained blouse to the drycleaner / so the window is to the poet.”

In this dazzling new collection, his first in three years, Collins explores boyhood, jazz, love, the passage of time, and, of course, writing–themes familiar to Collins’s fans but made new here. Gorgeous, funny, and deeply empathetic, Billy Collins’s poetry is a window through which we see our lives as if for the first time.


From the Hardcover edition.
Product Details
Hardcover (112 pages)
Published: October 18, 2005
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Imprint: Random House
ISBN: 9780375503825
Other books byBilly Collins
  • Aimless Love

    Aimless Love
    New and Selected Poems
    NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER “Billy Collins puts the ‘fun’ back in ‘profundity.’ ”—Alice Fulton From the two-term Poet Laureate of the United States Billy Collins comes his first compilation of new and selected poems in twelve years. Aimless Love combines more than fifty new poems with selections from four previous books—Nine Horses, The Trouble with Poetry, Ballistics, and Horoscopes for the Dead. Collins’s unmistakable voice, which brings together plain speech with imaginative surprise, is clearly heard on every page, reminding us how he has managed to enrich the tapestry of contemporary poetry and greatly expand its audience. His work is featured in top literary magazines such as The New Yorker, Poetry, and The Atlantic, and he sells out reading venues all across the country. Appearing regularly in The Best American Poetry series, his poems appeal to readers and live audiences far and wide and have been translated into more than a dozen languages. By turns playful, ironic, and serious, Collins’s poetry captures the nuances of everyday life while leading the reader into zones of inspired wonder. In the poet’s own words, he hopes that his poems “begin in Kansas and end in Oz.” Touching on the themes of love, loss, joy, and poetry itself, these poems showcase the best work of this “poet of plenitude, irony, and Augustan grace” (The New Yorker). Envoy   Go, little book, out of this house and into the world,   carriage made of paper rolling toward town bearing a single passenger beyond the reach of this jittery pen and far from the desk and the nosy gooseneck lamp.   It is time to decamp, put on a jacket and venture outside, time to be regarded by other eyes, bound to be held in foreign hands.   So off you go, infants of the brain, with a wave and some bits of fatherly advice:   stay out as late as you like, don’t bother to call or write, and talk to as many strangers as you can. Praise for Aimless Love “[Billy Collins] is able, with precious few words, to make me cry. Or laugh out loud. He is a remarkable artist. To have such power in such an abbreviated form is deeply inspiring.”—J.J. Abrams, The New York Times Book Review   “It’s smart to be a little suspicious of the popular. I make an exception for Collins. His work is poignant, straightforward, usually funny and imaginative, also nuanced and surprising. It bears repeated reading and reading aloud. . . . Whenever I sit down with his work, I remember a choice line from the song ‘For You’ by that other populist, Bruce Springsteen: ‘You could laugh and cry in a single sound.’ . . . There’s no shtick here, no selling out for the sake of accessibility. This is why Collins is popular. He’s wonderful.”—The Plain Dealer “Layered, subtly witty poems that anyone can understand and appreciate—even those who don’t normally like poetry.”—The Christian Science Monitor “Collins’s new poems contain everything you’ve come to expect from a Billy Collins poem. They stand solidly on even ground, chiseled and unbreakable. Their phrasing is elegant, the humor is alive, and the speaker continues to stroll at his own pace through the plainness of American life.”—The Daily Beast “America’s favorite poet.”—The Wall Street Journal

    Haiku in English

    Haiku in English
    The First Hundred Years
    Haiku in English is an anthology of more than 800 brilliantly chosen poems that were originally written in English by over 200 poets from around the world. Although haiku originated as a Japanese art form, it has found a welcome home in the English-speaking world. This collection tells the story for the first time of Anglophone haiku, charting its evolution over the last one hundred years and placing it within its historical and literary context. It features an engaging introduction by former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins and an insightful historical overview by leading haiku poet, editor, and publisher Jim Kacian. The selections range from the first fully realized haiku in English, Ezra Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro,” to plentiful examples by haiku virtuosos such as John Wills, Marlene Mountain, Nick Virgilio, and Raymond Roseliep, and to investigations into the genre by eminent poets like John Ashbery, Allen Ginsberg, and Seamus Heaney. The editors explore the genre’s changing forms and themes, highlighting its vitality and its breadth of poetic styles and content. Among the many poems on offer are organic form experiments by E. E. Cummings and Michael McClure, evocations of black culture by Richard Wright and Sonia Sanchez, and the seminal efforts of Jack Kerouac. The first anthology to map the full range of haiku in the English tradition, Haiku in English is the perfect collection of this spare and elegant genre.

    Poetry Speaks to Children

    Poetry Speaks to Children
    In the tradition of Poetry Speaks, the anthology named a Best Book of 2002 by School Library Journal, and praised by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer as "a volume to delight longtime lovers of poetry and to spark new love for poetry, especially among the young," Sourcebooks MediaFusion is proud to introduce the joy of the written and spoken word in Poetry Speaks to Children. Parents, educators, librarians, and poetry enthusiasts have wondered for years how to get children really interested in poetry. Until now, there hasn't been a collection of poems and poets that spoke directly to that elusive audience. Poetry Speaks to Children cracks through that barrier by packaging the best poems by the best authors along with a CD-making the engrossing and often mischievous verses come alive in the voices of many of the creators. Poetry Speaks to Children reaches into the world of poetry and pulls out the elements children love: rhyme, rhythm, fun and, every once in a while, a little mischief. More than 90 poems, for children ages six and up, celebrate the written word and feature a star-studded lineup of beloved poets, including: Roald Dahl; J. R. R. Tolkien; Robert Frost; Gwendolyn Brooks; Ogden Nash; John Ciardi; Langston Hughes; Sonia Sanchez; Seamus Heaney; Canada's best-loved children's poet, Dennis Lee; Rita Dove; Billy Collins; Nikki Giovanni and X. J. Kennedy. On the accompanying CD, 50 of the poems are brought to life--most read by the poets themselves--allow the reader to hear the words as the poets intended. Hear Gwendolyn Brooks growl her rhyming verse poem "The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves, or, What You Are You Are" with verve and inflection-relaying the story ofthe striped cat who "rushed to the jungle fair for something fine to wear," much to the hoots of his jungle peers. Amid jeers, sneers and sighs, the tiger eventually learns to be comfortable in his own striped skin (or fur as it were ). Follow Ogden Nash as he tells of the brave little Isabel, who "didn't worry, didn't scream or scurry" when confronted with a ravenous bear, a one-eyed giant or a troublesome doctor. Her clever solutions to problems ("She turned the witch into milk and drank her") will keep even the most reluctant readers interested. Listen to James Berry, who quells a little girl's anxieties about her color by celebrating the marriage of "night and light," emphasizing how all colors are necessary in nature, in "Okay, Brown Girl, Okay." Turn the page and tune in . . . kids won't be the only ones hooked

    The Apple That Astonished Paris

    The Apple That Astonished Paris

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