Nine Horses

Nine Horses


Book - 2002
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Nine Horses, Billy Collins's first book of new poems since Picnic, Lightning in 1998, is the latest curve in the phenomenal trajectory of this poet's career. Already in his forties when he debuted with a full-length book, The Apple That Astonished Paris, Collins has become the first poet since Robert Frost to combine high critical acclaim with broad popular appeal. And, as if to crown this success, he was appointed Poet Laureate of the United States for 2001--2002, and reappointed for 2002--2003. What accounts for this remarkable achievement is the poems themselves, quiet meditations grounded in everyday life that ascend effortlessly into eye-opening imaginative realms. These new poems, in which Collins continues his delicate negotiations between the clear and the mysterious, the comic and the elegiac, are sure to sustain and increase his audience of avid readers.
Publisher: New York : Random House, c2002.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780375503818
Characteristics: 120 p. ; 22 cm.


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CALS_Lee Apr 22, 2020

An enjoyable introduction for me to Billy Collins, one of our more popular contemporary poets. A lot of these poems are about taking a specific moment of his life and slowing things down, turning contemplative, taking it as a stepping off point to consider, well, Life and Mortality. Thus inviting the reader to do similarly, to take a moment away from busyness and distraction to think of more meaningful things. Which is something poetry is really useful for, though it has been shoved to the margins of culture, with most people worrying (not without some cause) that poetry is usually really difficult to understand! Collins seems to be trying to reach more of these potential readers without being utterly simplistic and trite either: striving for absolute clarity, eschewing innovation, using easy to follow visual lines, not using words like "eschewing", but also avoiding over earnestness and banality.

It's a good trick, though one downside is a lack of really memorable lines and passages, poetic phrasing that makes you think "wow". However there are images that stick out. These include a country mouse that steals a match and while running with it in its mouth behind the house's walls becoming an accidental torchbearer. There is humor as well, such as imagining if Botticelli had titled The Birth of Venus, "Composition in Blue, Ocher, Green, and Pink", or the reverse - Mark Rothko titling one of his "sandwiches of color", as Collins puts it, "Fishing Boats Leaving Falmouth Harbor at Dawn."


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Aug 21, 2016

This morning as I walked along the lakeshore,
I fell in love with a wren
and later in the day with a mouse
the cat had dropped under the dining room table.


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