Book Review: The Trouble with Poetry, and Other Poems, by Billy Collins

Another book club selection, and one that - honestly - I had put off until I read the non-fiction book first. In the past, books of poetry have many times become slogs for me. However, on starting this short collection of only eighty-five pages with forty-three short works, I came to like it very much and have read several poems several times. It's a keeper for sure. Collins writes in a very personal style, as if he's thinking aloud while with a friend (you and I, the readers) during the every-day moments, with dreams, tasks, observations, meandering thoughts, that come to mind to us all.

As one who certainly is not a student of poetry, this work gained on me as I "got into" his style. Collins writes in prose, not rhyme, and his prose is honest and spare, yet brilliant. I tried to mark favorites with small tabs of paper as placeholders as I want along, but after quite a few, I realized that this little book was a treasure trove of wonderful little "plain-Jane" poems. I loved it.

The title poem, which is next to last, or penultimate to use a fancy word, is terrific and ends this way, if I may copy a bit:


Poetry fills me with joy

and I rise like a feather in the wind.

Poetry fills me with sorrow

and I sink like a chain flung from a bridge.

But mostly poetry fills me

with the urge to write poetry,

to sit in the dark and wait for a little flame

to appear at the tip of my pencil.


What more can I say! This is the most honest recommendation I can add to this wonderful break from the usual in our modern lives.

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J.K. (Jim) George


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1 Response

  1. Poetry...yes it is easy and tempting for many of us to give up on too easily, as with "classical music" or RAP music or opera or any number of the "arts." The quote attributed to Herbert Spencer come to mind: "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance - that principle is contempt prior to investigation." Thank goodness for such poets as Billy Collins and the recommendations from our friends that permit us to realize the mistakes of our former beliefs.

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