Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Horoscopes for the Dead: Poems by Billy Collins

As I read through the poems in Horoscopes for the Dead: Poems by Billy Collins, I began to imagine the daily life of the former poet laureate. His to-do list must look something like this:
  • Sit on dock and watch water
  • Ride bike across town
  • Listen to the neighborhood
  • Read Dante
  • Think
  • Write
  • Cook from recipes but vary at will
  • Drink wine with wife
  • Dream all night
Collins admits to a routine "regimen of aimless wandering." I suppose this allows him to observe everything around him without too much involvement. He stays detached, until his wife or a friend require attention. It is good, however, that the poet can not stay clear of complications. Discomfort and annoyance give him more to think about. Again alone and free, he muses and records his mental acrobatics. As readers, we get to play along, enjoying the fun of hanging out with a poet.

As I read, I noted poems to revisit, starting with "The Straightener" on page 5. I can identify with a man wanting to having everything in line in the right place. While he wants his shirts arranged by color, I am more concerned that the short and long sleeves don't mix, but the obsession is similar. I had to smile at "Genesis" on page 23, in which he suggests man began as woman's rib. As a former math major, I also liked "Simple Arithmetic" on page 32, in which Collins subtracts objects from time and space. Eventually, my list of favorites was too long to be meaningful. Perhaps I should ask for the book for Christmas.

Collins, Billy. Horoscopes for the Dead: Poems. Random House, 2011. ISBN 9781400064922.


Barry said...

Very fine review, Rick. I think that you captured what I find most interesting about Collins' writing; his ability to move from the day-to-day concerns of life to something more universal.

ricklibrarian said...

Thanks, Barry. He makes it fun to think.