Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Art Of Drowning: poems by Billy Collins

Some books you have to sit with for a while after reading for a real appreciation to sink in. This volume of poems by Billy Collins, 2-time United States poet laureate, was one such book for me. As far as reading poems go, it is smooth and cool, paced nicely, and has no ponderous obstacles of personal-life allusions and intentional obscurantism sitting heavy in the path of interpretation. He feels much like someone helping you discover the wonders around your hometown. He’s not trying to be avant guard, pushing the evolving cusp of modern poetry. He’s simply writing from the heart, and he is full of great insights.

That being said, it wasn’t my favorite volume of poetry I have ever read. What? Wasn’t expecting that? While it was engaging, and cleansed my palate so to speak, I wouldn’t call this one of the most enlightening reads. It was a nice ride, but it wasn’t a step forward for me. I recognize Collins’ genius and value as a poet, and later while reading another poet, I appreciated more what it did for me, but it wasn’t something I’d seek out again anytime soon, because I’m not sure I grew as a result from reading it. I wasn’t prodded to think new thoughts or take new action…which is kind of a personal goal of mine when reading. I usually don’t read to simply pass time, or to read a ‘nice’ story. I’m still dipping the “blood of the universe” straight from the sun (Ray Bradbury), and I’ll be the first to admit, my personal standards are set high for the moment with regard to my taste in books.

However, as I said, it was more of a tonic than I realized (at the time it mostly bored me), but I see now it helped me wash down the incredibly dense, immobile molasses that Dylan Thomas’ poetry can become where words are indiscriminately beat together and flung down in jarring closeness and bewildering lack of context. Collin’s writing isn’t academic or experimental poetry; it’s simply good, readable, and uplifting. It’s read-out-loud poetry. It’s thoughtful and spontaneous, profound and playful.

If you’re looking for a book of poems to explore and rekindle your love of poetry, this may help. Collins is a good writer, but it was just okay for me. Don’t hate me for praising the chef but only nibbling his delicacies. I’m still devouring raw meat, yo.

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