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