Collins reminds me of two of my other favorite poets, Robert Frost and Carl Sandburg. All three of them are adept at taking an moment from modern life and examining it to see what it says about the people experiencing it. By doing so, they get me to figure out what I have in common with them and with humanity at a whole. They prefer concrete images and ordinary words over lofty ideals and literary obfuscation. And yet, Collins, Frost, and Sandburg all have achieved literary significance with their simplicity.
All of which is me using big words to say: they write simple-yet-profound poems that I like. Collins also has a wry humor that reminds me of another favorite poet, Kenneth Koch. For instance, there's this bit from the titular poem:
"the trouble with poetry is
that it encourages the writing of more poetry."
And this bit of advice from "The Student," gleaned from a poetry instruction book:
"When at a loss for an ending,
have some brown hens standing in the rain."
That made me laugh aloud -- haven't we all read a poem that involved such weird, dreary imagery?
Did I mention that Billy Collins was America's Poet Laureate for two terms? Yup. And yet, his poetry is super approachable -- I highly recommend him, especially for people who are afraid they won't "get" poetry. Trust me, you'll get Collins. Reading his poetry is, for me, like hearing a friend tell a little story about something they did or saw or thought about. Conversational, interesting, and sometimes profound or sad or funny or poignant.
My favorite poems in this collection are "Monday," "Flock," "Building with Its Face Blown Off," "The Lanyard," "The Student," and "The Trouble with Poetry." Just so you know :-)
If This Was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for occasional mild sensuality. Nothing nasty, nothing overt.