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Horoscopes for the Dead: Poems by Billy…

Horoscopes for the Dead: Poems (2011)

by Billy Collins

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Good News and Gold are poems I think my best friend Brian would enjoy.. I adore "A Question About Birds" as I myself have often wondered the same.
  CAMMD | Aug 4, 2014 |
Love Collins, but I did prefer his SAILING ALONE AROUND THE ROOM to this one. He (at least, for me) did not come alive until part 3 of the book, which had tremendous lines and words and images. ( )
  DonnaMarieMerritt | Aug 11, 2013 |
Really enjoyed this collection. Not every poem works for me, so it feels uneven at times, but the good ones more than make up for the bumpy ones. Some amble along not making much of an account for themselves til the very end, where a single idea can win you over. The strongest of them impact you from the beginning and grip til the end. One of our better poets. ( )
  wjmcomposer | Mar 31, 2013 |
I'm not usually much of a poetry reader but I enjoyed Horoscopes for the Dead. The poems seemed more accessable than most. ( )
  RebaRelishesReading | Sep 29, 2012 |
horoscopes for the dead by Billy Collins is a collection of his recent poetry. I've read a lot of his prior to this, and I suppose some of the "newness" of his style has worn off. So many of these poems seemed slight to me, anchored by some observation in his daily life - e.g. what to make of two chairs near a lake that no one ever sits in. Some observations were intriguing - what do birds make of another bird specie's cries, do they understand them, or is it like listening to people speaking a foreign language? A man or a woman can and sometimes will abandon a dog, but a dog will never abandon them. A sky reflected in a mirror, his daughter's drawing of a scallion.

But I kept wishing he'd dig his teeth into something meatier - social ills, poverty, war. He does take on war briefly: "There was talk of war this morning . . . but there's nothing I can do about that/except to continue my walk in the woods/conversing with my hand-" Conversing with what?! Well, he's made his hand into "the head of a duck/the kind that would cast a silhouetted/profile on a white screen . . . so benign an activity that if everyone did this/perhaps there would be no wars . . ." Hmm, a man in the woods talking to his duck head hand is a little too far out there for me.

But picking one like that from a good collection is unfair, and my longing for more "depth" could be my mistake, not his. He's like some of the ancient Chinese and Japanese poets, e.g. Wang Wei, Ryokan, Basho, Han Shan, making beautifully crafted poems based on simple observations. Centuries and centuries later, we're still reading all of those poets.

And there are times in this book when he took me somewhere new and wonderful, like "the department of dark and pouring rain." I loved matching up Zeno's paradox, that an object moving through space never reaches its destination because it's always limited to cutting the distance to its goal in half, with St. Sebastian - did the arrows ever reach him? All this while Collins is ordering a dinner in a restaurant.

He first captured my heart years ago with his humor. Yes, poetry need not always be solemn and reading it need not be like doing your chores. I'm still shakiing my head over his remarkable poem based on enthusiastic product descriptions in a Victoria's Secret catalog. Masterful. And he has some laugh out loud ones here, like his riff on overhearing a conversation, "She said like give me a break." Not, give me a break, but like give me a break. What exactly does that mean? I also got a kick out of this one, entitled, "Feedback":

The woman who wrote from Phoenix
after my reading there

to tell me they were all still talking about it

just wrote again
to tell me that they had stopped.

So maybe the fairest thing to say is there are some hits and some misses in this collection. At one point he says a poet is lucky if he creates three flawless poems in a lifetime. In my view he's already exceeded that. He remains our most accessible poet, and spending time with him once again may not have been flawless, but it was a pleasure. ( )
2 vote jnwelch | Aug 19, 2012 |
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In this new collection, "America's most popular poet" covers the everlasting themes of love and loss, life and death, youth and aging, solitude and union.

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