Friday, May 9, 2008

Sailing Alone Around the Room

I referred to a Billy Collins poem on Monday so decided it was only fitting to review his collection Sailing Alone Around the Room today. Although Collins has since published two other collections (Nine Horses and The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems), I am a particular fan of Sailing Alone since it was published the same year Collins became U.S. Poet Laureate (Charles Simic, the current Poet Laureate, is another favorite).

Collins is an accessible poet, which is a major part of his attraction. His poems tend to be humorous and approachable. Yet, they are anything but simple or pandering.

For example, I’ve recently been thinking about his poem “Another Reason Why I Don’t Keep a Gun in the House.” The poem starts: “The neighbor’s dog will not stop barking. / He is barking the same high, rhythmic bark / that he barks every time they leave the house. / They must switch him on on their way out.” Unfortunately, I am currently surrounded by barking dogs, including in my own house, and I sometimes wonder when I will reach my breaking point.

Since I’m on a dog kick, I will also mention his poem “Dharma.” Any pet owner can relate to a dog who “trots out the front door / every morning / without a hat or umbrella” but also “shove[s] the cat aside” and thinks his owner is a “god” (1-3, 19, 28).

Anyone who thinks she cannot understand or relate to poetry, who thinks the genre is outdated and inaccessible, should pick up a collection of Billy Collins. He proves that poetry can be current, modern, and enjoyable.

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