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Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems

4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  9,408 ratings  ·  498 reviews
"High, most encouraging tidings"--that is how Billy Collins, the widely read and widely acclaimed poet, describes the music in his poem about the gospel singing group The Sensational Nightingales. The same phrase applies, just as joyfully, to the arrival of Sailing Alone Around the Room, a landmark collection of new and selected poems by this Guggenheim Fellow, NPR contrib ...more
Published September 1st 2001 by Random House (NY) (first published 2001)
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Cory Carwile "On Turning Ten"

I fills me with nostalgia for my youth, and also reminds that the bitterness of growing older is relative -- a matter of perspective.…more
"On Turning Ten"

I fills me with nostalgia for my youth, and also reminds that the bitterness of growing older is relative -- a matter of perspective. It makes me smile and feel sad at the same time.(less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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D. Pow
I am a book addict. I own thousands of them. They fill most rooms of my house, many closets, my garage. They are stacked high by my bedside, on the hamper in the upstairs bathroom, in the backseat of my car. I take a book with me most places I go. I buy books all the time but I have gotten a little less self-indulgent in my buying habits; I almost never buy hardback and I never ever buy full-price. Probably the next lesson I should learn in my book buying habits is never buy while partially or f ...more
Jun 08, 2012 s.penkevich rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to s.penkevich by: Stephen M
Shelves: poetry, poet_laureate
I want the scissors to be sharp
and the table perfectly level
when you cut me out of my life
and paste me in the book you always carry.

Billy Collins, the American Poet Laureate from 2001-2003, is a poet whom you really always keep with you. The man is a pure shot of brilliance; his serene and seemingly effortless prose will seduce your intellect and make sweet, playful love to your soul. This particular collection serves as an early ‘best of’ and would make a perfect introduction to Collins. If y
Stephen M
I've already begun posting Billy Collins' poetry around my apartment.

In front of my bed:


On the refrigerator:


The book has inspired a couple poems.


After spending upward of a few hours
reading the poetry of Billy Collins,
his soft, monotone voice has begun
narrating my life.

When I walk to the bathroom,
his voice murmurs behind the splash in the toilet:

"I think of how many times I've risen
to use the bathroom and how the
noise of urine hitting the bowl of water
sounds like a strange symphony of busy
Age vitam plenissime

Take a walk in the park
perhaps of an evening,
moonlight dancing lightly
through the swaying branches of the willow,
reflected off the water,
where the heron feeds,
Illuminating our path.

There is a slight breeze
a welcome silence
later we will have a fire
and listen to the music of the night.

I am humbled to remember that poetry is after all everywhere. It envelopes us. It is in the words we read and those we speak to each other.
It is in the very air I breathe, deep and slow.

I love
I don’t think Billy gives a rat’s ass that I’m a philistine; that I’m unschooled in the appreciation of fine arts; that I can’t even fake knowing jack about poetry. He writes for guys like me, too. In fact, it might be kind of his thing. (My friend Scott, who does know poetry, commented just today that Collins has a reputation for being less serious. Evidently, the hegemons of verse took exception when he was named Poet Laureate and called for their own choice.) But he won me over on the very fi ...more
Jan 10, 2015 rahul rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to rahul by: Nidhi Singh
Shelves: favorites, poetry
last night my soul woke up
Thirsty, I call it
looking for something that I had
Missed, so I have named my memories

a memory came from the past
and led me forward
giving shore to my lost
soul,within the pages of...
Sailing Alone Around the Room

A couple of poems I drank then.
Savored another before breakfast.
One awaits me once
I am done with this review.

Meanwhile, for better use of words.
Please relish this.

Winter Syntax

A sentence starts out like a lone traveler
heading into a blizzard at midnight,
tilting i
new review from a second read

Billy Collins was born in Manhattan in 1941, received a BA degree from Holy Cross (Worchester MA) in 1963, and attended the University of California, Riverside, earning MA and PhD degrees in Romantic Poetry. He joined the faculty of Lehman College in the Bronx in 1968 and taught there for over thirty years.

Collins served as Poet Laureate of the U.S. from 2001 to 2003. During his term Collins created a program called Poetry 180
”I walk through the house reciting it and leave its letters falling through the air of every room.”

Whenever I read Billy Collins’ poems, I want to hand them out to people nearby, as if they are small gifts, from him to all of us. They so perfectly exist within their words that they seem almost self-formed, and Billy Collins is merely their handler who has unwrapped them or undressed them and showed us their essence.
The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by th
Nidhi Singh
This is one the best books I have ever read. Almost every poem in this collection is wonderful. A book I would want to read again and again. This might not be the best poem from this collection but it has that ability to persist in my memory which is not very good with poetry.

Introduction to Poetry

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and fe
I gave this book three separate sittings and though I did enjoy reading it, I could not shake the feeling that Collins is a bit too straightforward. I understand his widespread appeal - he makes poetry manageable, accessible, easy - but I think he does so at some expense. Critics quoted in the front of the book described his "irresistable charm" - but I think that a great deal of that charm is not so much the sublimeness of his poems, but the fact that nearly every person on earth - secretly, de ...more
My philosophically minded friends and I have a debate about Billy Collins' poetry. They insist that the attempt to chronicle the everyday in a meaningful way can be done in a deeper, more profound manner. They find Collins lacking in this way. This is probably true, but not Collins' main point, I think.
Still, I think, after rereading this book, that Collins becomes more profound with time. I am still unsure if this is my projection into the poem because I *want* these poems to be more profound o
Stacy Bender
the lanyard

The other day as I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room
bouncing from typewriter to piano
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
I found myself in the "L" section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word, Lanyard.
No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one more suddenly into the past.
A past where I sat at a workbench
at a camp by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid thin plastic strips into a lanyard.
A gift for my mother.
I just really enjoy Billy Collins'dry wit and way with words. But here is my favorite Billy Collins poem (not, alas, included in this book, but it will give you a nice taste of his work).

the lanyard

The other day as I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room
bouncing from typewriter to piano
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
I found myself in the "L" section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word, Lanyard.
No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send
Sep 23, 2007 Trish rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who don't like poetry
Billy Collins is the perfect poet for people who don't really care for poetry. He writes little stories in free verse that are accessible and often very funny. This is a collection of, as the title says, new and old poems. Some of my favorites are: Marginalia where the poet ponders the kinship he feels with people who write in the margin of books; Another Reason Why I Don't Keep a Gun in the House where the poet struggles with his ire at the neighbor's barking dog, and Passengers, his observatio ...more
I love Billy Collins' poems. I know he is lauded as being accessible. He is. Mostly though he is clever and downright hilarious at times. As all good poets he twists words and ideas just enough to make you see the world differently. His writing is warm and his subjects are often everyday thoughts and ideas--nothing esoteric here. Collins'poetry makes me want to read more poetry . . . and not just his.

Highlights are numerous in this collection, but include:

Plight of the Troubadour
Winter Syntax
I have to say that I glaze over at most poetry. I always feel that I need to "tie the poem to a chair with rope and torture a confession out of it". But perhaps this book helped me "walk inside the poem's room and feel the walls for a light switch". Although I'll still do that with the hose for beating behind my back.

---The History Teacher---

Trying to protect his students’ innocence
he told them the Ice Age was really just
the Chilly Age, a period of a million years
when everyone had to wear sweaters.

And the Stone Age became the Gravel Age,
named after the long driveways of the time.

The Spanish Inquisition was nothing more
than an outbreak of questions such as
“How far is it from here to Madrid?”
“What do you call the matador’s hat?”

The War of the Roses took place in a garden,
and the Enola Gay dropped one tiny atom
I don't like poetry. I mean, I like this poem, and that poem. The Lady of Shalott, The Raven, you know, sort of the "usual suspects" of poetry. But I never actively seek out poetry. I don't like to curl up with a good book of poems on a rainy day. I don't "get" a lot of it, and I'm irritated by many of the modern poets. But my sister, who is an English teacher, introduced me to Billy Collins' poetry a few years ago, and I was hooked. Funny, deceptively simple, and yet tender and insightful at th ...more
I was just going through old books to donate and came across this. I thought, "Oh, this turd's definitely getting itself donated." I remembered Collins as being proudly dull, writing almost exclusively about writing poems, and trying to trick you into thinking that every rudimentary action was a profound moment.

As I flipped through the soon-to-be-donated book, hoping to find a lost hundred, a girl's phone number, or something as good/forgotten as the poetry was bad/forgotten, I found a series o
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Katherine Cowley
Billy Collins has been called a "major minor" poet, and I must admit, I hadn't heard of him before my friend brought one of his poems to poetry night this past December. The same friend chose this poetry collection for our April meeting of book group, and I'm so glad she did.

Billy Collins' poems are delightful, accessible, funny, yet deep. His commentary is never biting, his criticism always revelatory. He paints things with words. He doesn't use set forms, unless he is mocking the set form.

Megan Baxter
I know nothing about poetry. A bad experience in my first-year World Literature class sent me running screaming from the English Department. This doesn't mean I don't like poetry, just that I know little about it, or how to find good poetry.

But when I read s.penkevich's great review of Sailing Alone Around the Room, the poems he posted as part of that caught my attention right away, and I ordered the book from the library.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goo
Apr 28, 2015 Carmen rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of modern poetry
Very good and satisfying book of poetry. Excellent.
Peycho Kanev
Пеша с Били Колинс

Първата книга на Били Колинс, която прочетох в оригинал, се казва „Изкуството на давене” (1995). Не бях чувал името му преди това. Помня как затворих последната страница и след десет минути отново отворих на първата - и започнах пак. Въпросът, който изплува в съзнанието ми, беше: „На кого, на кого ми напомня?”. Тогава не успях да си отговоря. Няколко години по-късно получих отговор от самия автор. Каза ми: „Сигурно ти напомня на Били Колинс...”
През 2001 г. Били Колинс е избран
Mar 16, 2012 Virginia rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers of all types, poets and non-poets
Recommended to Virginia by: discovered in US bookstores
When dinner guests are in the right frame of mind, I read a Billy Collins poem for our enjoyment. When writers are struggling in a workshop, I read "The First Reader" and invite them to write about what they remember of first learning to read. Inevitably, they write well and from the heart. And often cry, but in a good way.

For my birthday this year, Tony and I went to hear Billy Collins read, at the University of Calgary. The man, the reader and the poet are seamless, The light humour, the simp
Poetry. Selected poems from The Apple That Astonished Paris; Questions About Angels; The Art of Drowning; Picnic, Lightning; and twenty additional new poems.

Collins is one of my favorite poets. I like his sense of humor, the way he can effortlessly draw a metaphor out, or teasingly deconstruct a poetic form. His poems are casual, with simple language, and they can be irreverent and playful, but he doesn't shy away from emotion. In the last pages of this collection, several of the poems are about
I loved this. Great book for folks like me who have never had much of an affinity for poetry. A nice variety of subject matter, tone, humor, etc. I'll certainly read it a 2nd and 3rd time to find more in the poems, and to enjoy them again. As I mentioned elsewhere, it's a good "gateway poetry book" for someone who would like to start a habit.
Judith Starkston
I was given a copy of these poems by Billy Collins recently, and they are a delightful companion. As such they cannot rightly ever be stowed in the already read file because I will return as often as my soul needs to. I highly recommend a copy by everyone's bedside. How can you not love a book of poems in which one can find these two stanzas in a poem called Forgetfulness?

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire
Billy Collins makes everyone feel like they can read poetry and makes most people feel like they can write it, and for that I thank him. That should be said first. As for the poems themselves, even this Greatest Hits collection is hit or miss. He's at times charming and irresistibly funny and at other times frustratingly self-aware. Among my favorites: "Winter Syntax," "Purity," "Marginalia," "Picnic, Lightning," and the clear favorite "Reading an Anthology of Chinese Poems of the Sung Dynasty I ...more
Light enters this room
And nothing is really happening
But if I try really hard, I can pretend
I am saying something.

Don't delve too deep into this poem.
Im going to pretend this is because its meaning
Is elusive and yet graspable at once.
It may not even have a meaning
How subversive, a slap in the face to those who
Beat the meaning out of a poem.
HOW SILLY to demand meaning
When a sentence can be pretty?
But my sentences aren't even pretty
And I don't know any cool words
So basically all of this i
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  • Delights and Shadows
  • Good Poems
  • Fuel
  • What Narcissism Means to Me
  • Without: Poems
  • Otherwise: New & Selected Poems
  • New and Selected Poems, Vol. 2
  • The Best of It: New and Selected Poems
  • Strike Sparks: Selected Poems, 1980-2002
  • The Wild Iris
  • A Book of Luminous Things: An International Anthology of Poetry
  • Time and Materials
  • Native Guard
  • Poems New and Collected
William A. ("Billy") Collins is an American poet. He served two terms as the Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003. In his home state, Collins has been recognized as a Literary Lion of the New York Public Library (1992) and selected as the New York State Poet for 2004.
More about Billy Collins...
The Trouble With Poetry - And Other Poems Nine Horses Picnic, Lightning Horoscopes for the Dead Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry

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“Vade Mecum

I want the scissors to be sharp
and the table perfectly level
when you cut me out of my life
and paste me in that book you always carry.”
“But some nights, I must tell you,
I go down there after everyone has fallen asleep.
I swim back and forth in the echoing blackness.
I sing a love song as well as I can,
lost for a while in the home of the rain. ”
More quotes…