Week 40: The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems – Billy Collins

Right before heading out for vacation it seemed a perfect week to revisit one of my favorite authors; a poet, no less. I love Billy Collins and after reading two of his collections (Ballistics this year and Nine Horses a while back) I was anxious to pick up a third. THE TROUBLE WITH POETRY AND OTHER POEMS was the lucky winner. The title alone cinched this week’s selection for me.

I mean, there’s so much trouble with poetry, isn’t there? Or maybe it’s there’s so much trouble with me and poetry. Poetry and I have a long and sordid history. One that involves a lot of not getting along and total misunderstandings. Then Billy came along and he was like the new poetry boyfriend that really “got me”.


That all being said, the trouble with THE TROUBLE WITH POETRY is that overall, it’s not my favorite of his collections, yet it has my all-time favorite poem of his in it: The Lanyard.


Trouble, indeed.


In simple words that evoke real emotions, Collins is able to show the attempt a child makes in saying thank you to his mother for all that she has done (including giving him life) by making her a lanyard at summer camp. It’s funny and poignant and nothing short of wonderful. You, Reader; On Traveling Alone; On Not Finding You at Home; Class Picture, 1954; Fool Me Good and The Trouble with Poetry are my favorites after one reading.


While there are a handful of great poems in THE TROUBLE WITH POETRY, there are a number that I didn’t connect with. Despite this, I am not sensing trouble in paradise just yet. I am finding that poetry is often something to be contemplated and considered and may not hit the spot after the first reading and I am okay with that. This reconciliation poetry and I have going on is still very much in the beginning stages. It’s definitely too soon to throw in the towel. I think we are both willing to spend some time on it and see where it all goes. I might even start reading other poetry because of it.


Rating: 3 stars
Pages: 112
Genre: Poetry

Week 3: Ballistics: Poems – Billy Collins

I have often shied away from poetry. In all my love of literature, it has always seemed like the better educated sibling with whom I really couldn’t converse. While poetry would expound upon themes and metaphors, illusions and allusions, I would be wondering if anyone would jump in and be able to talk about the latest episode of the newest popular TV show, saving me from embarrassment and, ultimately, engaging me in something more my speed. In other words, smart as I think am, I didn’t always feel like I was in poetry’s league.

And then I was introduced to Billy Collins.

I don’t want you to think that he’s poetry’s younger, dumber sister; because he’s not. Having held the position of Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003, and the New York State Poet in 2004, he’s quite the opposite. What he is, and what for so long poetry hasn’t been for me, is accessible. He writes about every day experiences and situations and weaves in glints of humor, sadness and reality that fit as comfortably as a pair of well-worn jeans.

My first exposure was several years ago to his collection, Nine Horses, which I found absolutely delightful. Charming, even.

After becoming a parent, I listened to him read his famous poem, The Lanyard (listen to it now – you won’t be sorry), and I connected with it in a way I haven’t been able to with other poems (let alone novels).

And now I pick up BALLISTICS, his latest collection sent to me by my dad and step mom a few months ago. It was the perfect read during a very rainy and reflective week. Several of the poems brought a curl to my lip where others forced me to close my eyes and savor the words just a little bit longer before turning the page and moving on. I have some clear favorites from this collection and some that I wasn’t as able to connect with, and that’s okay. There’s something about his poems that not only feel accessible, but personal. I think that his poems will resonate differently with different people in their various places and stages of life.

I am certainly not one to find myself in deep dialogue with others about poetry, its history, construction, relevance or whatever people talk about when they talk about poetry; but with Billy Collins I feel like I can finally contribute to the conversation. Even if he is one of only a handful of poets I can actually reference.

Rating: 4 stars
Pages: 128
Genre: Poetry