Book Review: Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems

Aimless Love by Billy Collins

Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins is a selection of poetry ranging from 2002 through 2011. Billy Collins was poet laureate of the United States from 2001 through 2003. He also served as poet laureate of the state of New York from 2004 through 2006. He is a distinguished fellow at the Winter Park Institute of Rollins College. Collins is also the editor of Poetry 180 and has published ten collections of poetry.

For me poetry collections are a bit like short story collections, because I know early on when I do not like one. They also are like short story collections in that I know an excellent collection very early on. In this collection by the third poem I knew that it would be an outstanding collection. I ran across this in the third poem “More Than A Woman”:

… I peered in at the lobsters

lying on the bottom of an illuminated
tank which was filled to the brim
with their copious tears.

Then moved by the poem “Absence,” I turned to “Royal Aristocrat” a poem about Collin’s old and noisy typewriter. That typewriter made so much noise he had to keep the doors shut and set the machine on top of a pile of newspaper to help deaden the sound. Times change, and he writes:

That was twenty years ago,
yet as I write with this soft lead pencil
I can still hear the distinctive sound,
like small arms fire across the border.

It’s that ability to capture moments and memories that makes poetry great. “Today” is another poem that cries out to a moment or feeling we all have experienced. Simply amazing in the flow of the words and the capturing of the feeling.

The poetry is divided into three sections from 2002 Nine Horses, which I have quoted from so far. The second section is called Ballistics from 2005, and lastly Horoscopes for the Dead from 2011. The the last two sections, both of the title poems are amazing. There is a bit of humor in Ballistics, or what I took as being a bit humor. Horoscopes for the Dead is a bit haunting and anyone who has lost someone can easily relate to it.

Poetry collections are also like short story collections because you do not need to like every poem, but the ones that you do like hold you in through the entire collection. Collins makes reference to a poet maybe writing three perfect poems in a lifetime. I do not know what constitutes a perfect poem, but I do know what I like. There were many more than three times that after reading the poem I put down the book and thought, “Wow!” After a few minutes, I would pick it up and read through it again, and once more, highlight sections, highlight the poem in the contents, and read it again. It is easy to see after reading this selection how Collins was a Poet Laureate. An amazing collection and a must read for fans of contemporary poetry.

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September 12, 2013 · 16:05

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