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The Trouble with Poetry: And Other Poems by…
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The Trouble with Poetry: And Other Poems (2005)

by Billy Collins

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» See also 75 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
Great collection ( )
  nittnut | Aug 30, 2018 |
In my quest to understand poetry I read Billy Collins's 180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Every Day on and off last year, a few poems at a time, and liked it very much. From what I've read here and there (particularly on LT), Billy Collins is a widely-read, well-loved poet who is very accessible, and this led to my picking up The Trouble With Poetry.

Unlike 180 More, which had many poets and many voices, the poems in The Trouble With Poetry are all by Billy Collins and it is in his voice that the poems speak. I found a great similarity in tone and mood in many of these poems, and I found that comforting. While there were some poems that just didn't speak to me, there were none that I actively disliked or that I found incomprehensible. And there were several poems that I really liked.

As a mother (and as a daughter who made more than one of these at summer camp), I loved "The Lanyard":

The other day as I was ricocheting slowly
off the pale blue walls of this room,
bouncing from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell on the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one more suddenly into the past--
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that's what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sickroom,
lifted teaspoons of medicine to my lips,
set cold face-clothes on my forehead,
and then led me out into the light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift--not the archaic truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hands,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

I also liked how Collins often uses poetry to comment on poetry. (Well, the title of the collection is The Trouble With Poetry, after all.) I particularly liked The Student, which begins:

My poetry instruction book,
which I bought at an outdoor stall along the river

contains many rules....

The final rule, and how the poem ends is

And always keep your poem in one season.

I try to be mindful
but in these last days of summer

whenever I look up from my page
and see a burn-mark of yellow leaves,

I think of the icy winds
that will soon be knifing through my jacket.

The poem I really got a kick out of was The Introduction, with its gentle jab at pretension:

I don't think this next poem
needs any introduction--
it's best to let the work speak for itself.

Maybe I should just mention
that whenever I use the word five
I'm referring to that group of Russian composers
who came to be known as "The Five,"
Balakirev, Moussorgsky, Borodin--that crowd.

Oh--and Hypsicles was a Greek astronomer.
He did something with the circle.

That's about it, but for the record,
"Grimke" is Angelina Emity Grimke, the abolitionist.
"Imroz" is that little island near the Dardanelles.
"Monad"--well you all know what a monad is.

There could be a little problem
with Martaba, which was one of those Egyptian
above-ground sepulchers, sort of brick and limestone.

And you're all familiar with helminthology?
It's the science of worms.

Oh, and you will recall that Phoebe Mozee
is the real name of Annie Oakley.

Other than that, everything should be obvious.
Wagga Wagga is in New South Wales.
Rhyolite is that soft volcanic rock.
What else?
Yes Meranti is a type of timber, in tropical Asia I think,
and Rahway is just Rahway, New Jersey.

The rest of the poem should be clear.
I'll just read it and let it speak for itself.

It's about the time I went picking wild strawberries.

It's called "Picking Wild Strawberries."

Highly recommended,

4 1/2 stars ( )
  arubabookwoman | Dec 28, 2017 |
According to Billy Collins,
The trouble with poetry is this:
That it engenders further poetry.

Since my reviews of poetry
Are written in blank verse, I suppose
That Collins must be more or less
Correct.

(Probably less. Can book reviews
Really count as poems?)

These ones are full of death,
But also dogs
Taken for a walk around the lake,
And wine, and candles,
And blue and white striped wallpaper.

Simple, universal imagery,
The sort of thing that Collins
Does so well. ( )
3 vote foggidawn | Apr 20, 2017 |
This small volume of poetry by Billy Collins was an unexpected pleasure to read. I tried to only read a couple of poems each time I picked up the book in order to actually think about what I was reading and how it was relevant to me. I do not read poetry on a regular basis so the most surprising thing of all about this book was how easy it was to read, this is a volume of poems that are about ordinary life, yet some of his prose captures life’s perfect moments so clearly that it leaves one amazed at his vision.

There are many moods to the writing from playful to graceful, ironic to vulnerable but at all times these are words to ponder. I am not saying that I totally understood the meaning of each poem, or exactly what Collins was revealing with each phrase, but there were many that did either speak to me or cause me to pause and think about what I was reading.

In the poem Monday he writes, “The poets are at their windows”, and windows seem to be a reoccurring theme in his writing. In The Trouble With Poetry, Billy Collins has invited his readers to look into his windows and discover how unexpected the ordinary can be. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Jun 17, 2015 |
The trouble with poetry is/you can't eat it all/at once without/getting a rush, even if the lines are plain-spoken like this/and the sun is shining high and you are eating a fresh-picked apple without the kids around/and there's little melodrama in the poem or in your life, even if the poem is about love and sex and death, always death, even when eating an apple.

The Trouble With Poetry is worth reading for Billy Collins' fine lines! ( )
  cabockwrites | Sep 25, 2014 |
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My idea of paradise is a perfect automobile going thirty miles an hour on a smooth road to a twelfth-century cathedral. --Henry James
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375755217, Paperback)

Playfulness, spare elegance, and wit epitomize the poetry of Billy Collins. With his distinct voice and accessible language, America’s two-term Poet Laureate has opened the door to poetry for countless people for whom it might otherwise remain closed.

Like the present book’s title, Collins’s poems are filled with mischief, humor, and irony, “Poetry speaks to all people, it is said, but here I would like to address / only those in my own time zone”–but also with quiet observation, intense wonder, and a reverence for the everyday: “The birds are in their trees, / the toast is in the toaster, / and the poets are at their windows. / They are at their windows in every section of the tangerine of earth–the Chinese poets looking up at the moon, / the American poets gazing out / at the pink and blue ribbons of sunrise.”

Through simple language, Collins shows that good poetry doesn’t have to be obscure or incomprehensible, qualities that are perhaps the real trouble with most “serious” poetry: “By now, it should go without saying / that what the oven is to the baker / and the berry-stained blouse to the drycleaner / so the window is to the poet.”

In this dazzling new collection, his first in three years, Collins explores boyhood, jazz, love, the passage of time, and, of course, writing–themes familiar to Collins’s fans but made new here. Gorgeous, funny, and deeply empathetic, Billy Collins’s poetry is a window through which we see our lives as if for the first time.


From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:53 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A collection of poetry by America's former Poet Laureate features witty, insightful, and simple poems dealing with the themes of jazz, the passage of time, love, boyhood, and writing.

» see all 3 descriptions

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