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The Art of Drowning

4.25 of 5 stars 4.25  ·  rating details  ·  1,818 ratings  ·  85 reviews
This collection of poems has a subject matter ranging from the gustatory pleasures of osso buco to an analysis of the handwriting of Keats; from the art form of the calendar pinup to blues music.
Hardcover, 112 pages
Published June 29th 1995 by University of Pittsburgh Press (first published 1995)
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The Complete Poems by Emily DickinsonLeaves of Grass by Walt WhitmanShakespeare's Sonnets by William ShakespeareThe Waste Land and Other Poems by T.S. EliotAriel by Sylvia Plath
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,974)
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Chris
2 and 1/2 stars. Gather around folks and I'll tell you why.

Some books you have to sit with for a while after reading for a real appreciation to sink in. This volume of poems by Billy Collins, 2-time United States poet laureate, was one such book for me. As far as reading poems go, it is smooth and cool, paced nicely, and has no ponderous obstacles of personal-life allusions and intentional obscurantism sitting heavy in the path of interpretation. He feels much like someone helping you discover t
...more
Joanne Merriam
Billy Collins has visited my city a number of times in the past two years, including giving a two-day writing workshop which I was fortunate to attend, as well as several readings. I enjoy his poetry most read aloud and in person, where his charismatic reality distortion field is in full effect and I as an audience member forget that I don't like easy poetry with easy conclusions provided pre-packaged for me, so that in the end I must grudgingly admit that I quite enjoy his work despite all my t ...more
AnandaTashie
Enjoyed this book of poetry by Collins, especially the first section. Part 1 was a full-on 5 for me, the others a 4. However, since I loved the first part so very much, I'm giving the book a 5 overall. :D My favorite lines:

p 9, Osso Buco, "In a while, one of us will go to bed / and the other one will follow. / Then we will slip below the surface of the night / into miles of water, drifting down and down / to the dark, soundless bottom / until the weight of dreams pulls us lower still, / below th
...more
Beth
While a number of the poems in this book have been recently re-published in the compilation Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems, this collection is in and of itself a gem. Billy Collins' poetry is both wry and genuine, and always full of wit. Each poem is clear and accessible, yet it brings us a moment of truth, often stemming from something quite ordinary: a gospel song on the radio, a stroll through a museum, a good meal.

The poet has a gift for humor. Even the title poem in t
...more
Florence
This slim volume of poems by a former US Poet Laureate appealed to me. Most of the poems dealt with everyday, commom themes. Occasionally, there was a line or two of truly beautiful or playfully droll imagery. Literary references, which usually are beyond my knowledge are few.

Here's an example from one entitled "Influence": " I saw the doves milling around in the snow, their legs as thin as pencil leads." Yes, birds do seem extremely vulnerable in frigid weather, don't they?

Here he is in "The
...more
Dave
I always read books of poetry too fast, especially if I like them. Like eating all of the candy in one sitting. And I never really loved my favorite poems at first read. So I liked this very much and need to digest before I know how I'll really feel about all of these. But I have many current favorites: "Piano Lessons," "Medium," "Workshop," "Thesaurus," "Metropolis," "Influence." And most of them show me something or take me somewhere or make me smile.
Cindy
.....how tired i am of reading and writing,
Tired of watching all the dull, horse-drawn sentences
As they plough through fields of paper,

Tired of being dragged on a leash of words
By an author I can never look up and see,
Tired of examining the exposed spines of books,

I want to be far from the shores of language,
A boat without passengers, lost at sea.....
Writer's Relief
Distinguished Professor and former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins has collected some of his best work in his poetry collection THE ART OF DROWNING.

From the opening piece, “Dear Reader,” Collins welcomes you to join him in experiencing the fleetingness of humanity and the short yet deep connection he imagines making with his readers. He expresses the beauty found in life through snapshots of brief yet meaningful moments that have captured his attention. With ideas ranging from the warmth a goo
...more
Alison O'Leary
May 14, 2014 Alison O'Leary rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
I was looking for some books to take on vacation when I ran across Collins' poetry. Just flipping through the pages while standing in the library stacks I knew I had hit on the right author, but which book? I've been trying to read everything Collins writes because it's all amazing (how descriptive, huh?). I found myself reading portions out loud to my partner as we sat on the deck of his Vermont cabin in solitude. He's not a poetry fan but I had to impress upon him why Collins is such a master ...more
Joshua
this book is tattered, from sitting in my bag, being dragged along all over the city, opened and reopened again, on many late evenings. i love to read his poems out loud; they roll off the tongue without any difficulty. osso buco is fantastic, but so are about 20 others inside this slim volume.
Joe
Collins' poetry has always been enjoyable reading for me. His obsession with the mundane, accessible style, and elegant re-framing of the familiar makes his poems relatable and evocative. This collection is pretty consistent throughout 4 sections. Collins focuses on observation of the everyday, often deriving deeper meaning from the monotonous/ubiquitous elements of daily experience after exploratory contemplation. His attention to "the immediate" would be zen-like if it weren't so wistfully nos ...more
Justin
Billy Collins writes good, solid, unashamed, every day poetry.
Sara
"Man in Space

All you have to do is listen to the way a man
sometimes talks to his wife at a table of people
and notice how intent he is on making his point
even though her lower lip is beginning to quiver,

and you will know why the women in science
fiction movies who inhabit a planet of their own
are not pictured making a salad or reading a magazine
when the men from earth arrive in their rocket,

why they are always standing in a semicircle
with their arms folded, their bare legs set apart
their breasts p
...more
Bill Keefe
A lesson in poetry, preferences, and predilections.

I was surprised to have enjoyed this book so much. I had once listened to Billy Collins on tape and thought him more of a comedian than a poet. How untrue. How poorly this describes him and his work - this work at least.

Yes, Billy Collins is funny. And yes, he'll write a poem about the painting of a fish on his wall. But he writes to your heart. He writes to your head and to your appreciation of the world you live in. He seems to find and remind
...more
A.M.
I feel I must preface this review with a brief description of how I came to read this book at this particular moment in time. I had actually embarked on reading a different collection of poetry by some modern female poet named on an NPR must-read list that I found so utterly grotesque, depraved and pretentious that I threw it aside after only eight poems. In my entire 45 years, I have never not finished a collection of poetry out of pure disgust for the poems - until last evening.

To reclaim my m
...more
Christina Rau
Billy Collins has magical powers. He can take any simple idea and make it poetic. He can make me care about a poem in which the speaker mentions "my wife" or a horse. He can create a scene of the everyday, like one during which a writer wakes up, puts on a pair of slippers, goes to a desk, and writes, and I very much care about the writer getting up, putting on slippers, going to a desk, and writing. He's relatable. That's what his Poetry 180 is all about, finding relatable poems. Only a relatab ...more
Amir Mojiry
May 29, 2013 Amir Mojiry rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Amir by: Zahra Saedi
Shelves: poetry
خیلی سال پیش در فیلمی هالیوودی، یک ترانه ی انگلیسی شنیدم. هر چه بیش تر ترانه خوانده می شد، بیش تر تعجب می کردم. عاشقانه بود اما خبری از مفاهیم انتزاعی در آن نبود. می گفت آن بعد از ظهری را که با هم چایی و کیک خوردیم به یاد بیاور و... تعجب من بیش تر از سر مقایسه با ترانه های فارسی بود. ترانه هایی که هنوز تحت تاثیر شعر کهن فارسی، حرف های زیادی بزرگ می زدند! البته ترانه چندان هم مقصر نبود، شعر نو هم همین تاثیر پذیری را داشته در اوایل به وجود آمدنش.
به هر حال ترانه از آن جا که زیاد نیازی به خاصیت ماند
...more
Kevin Fanning
Oct 02, 2011 Kevin Fanning added it
Shelves: poetry
Really wanted to like this--I love the way he structures his poems, the rhythms of the lines. They have this easy lilt to them that's just about perfect. But I couldn't get into the actual content of the poems! I kept waiting for an ending, a line, a stanza that would come at my unexpectedly, knock me on my ear, but it never happened. I wanted to be surprised, I wanted to suddenly learn that the subject matter wasn't really the subject matter, but that was not the case here. For me the poems wer ...more
Hansen Wendlandt
Collins is a genius at making simplicity beautiful, and the beautiful simple. Who else could write a poem about "How agreeable it is not to be touring Italy this summer"? (7, Consolation) And who would choose a word like 'agreeable' there? Reading in a Hammock is a great justification for taking up a book like this in an actual hammock: "A light so pale and violet it is impossible to tell if I am a man of leisure or a martyr to idleness." (16) The Best Cigarette deals so well with a sensitive to ...more
Lori Widmer Bean
Billy Collins has become my favorite poet. From his poem in a recent issue of The Atlantic to this collection, he shows how to write about nearly anything and make it a soul-baring, beautiful experience for the reader.

He makes me want to be a better poet.
Sarah
May 27, 2009 Sarah rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Sarah by: Whitney Archibald
Shelves: poetry
Whitney introduced me to Billy Collins (and Tamsin further endorsed him) and I have become a fan. I picked up this book b/c it was the one available at the library but there are 8 others to chose from.

Some of my favorite poems in this collection:
Reading in a Hammock
Canada
Death Beds
Man in Space
Center
The Invention of the Saxophone
Pinup
Piano Lessons

You really should watch him read his poems to gain a full perspective - his voice is perfectly matched to his words. My other favorites I listened to/re
...more
Julia
an excerpt from my journal, circa eleven-thirty pm: "page 24 of The Art of Drowning. Let it be known that Billy Collins is awful."

page ninety-five and my objection still stands.

come on now. guys guys guys. this poetry is just not good. i haven't ever seen more boring use of language in my life and god, the endings. they slip past you, tiny, a mumble. this isn't how it works. i'm not even going to get into the content. nothing dimensional is made of it. we're always at the surface, walking at a s
...more
Kerstin
My favorite part about reading poetry is how I start thinking in rhythm, in verse. Several green sticky notes remind me of phrases I like. I want more.
Eric
As a fan of poetry, I find it very difficult to find a collection of poetry that keeps me invested the whole way. For one thing, even if they're good, a collection of poetry has to be different enough for each piece to stand on its own. Billy Collins shows that diversity, and many of these poems I know I will be going back to for a long time. Not every single poem was for me, but I can't contest against any of them, and for me, that's just as close enough to being a classic. I would even venture ...more
Kathleen
Billy Collins and I have a somewhat peculiar relationship, in that I always enjoy reading his poems because they are inevitably just accessible enough to not put me off completely, but sometimes I just won't get one. I keep reading, though, because sometimes I do, and oh, there are so many poems in this book that strike a chord. The Art of Drowning, the title poem, comes to mind particularly, but there are so many others that just feel right that if I started listing them, we'd be here all day.

D
...more
Paula
This is a Collins collection that contains some of my very favorite poems: "The Best Cigarette," "On Turning Ten," "My Heart," and "Dear Reader." I've read or listen to them about a dozen or more times, but that doesn't make them any less moving.

One of the things Collins does that can grate a reader's nerves is write about writing (what's that poetic term called again?), over and over, but otherwise his poems are thoughtful and at least somewhat deeper than surface level.

Pretty much anything pu
...more
Karen Long
Mar 06, 2008 Karen Long rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: modern poetry fans
Recommended to Karen by: John
Occasionally I like to read some poetry. I like the word play and the pictures the words convey. Billy Collins, US Poet Laureate, writes in a way that is understandable about modern life. His poem "Man in Space" rang true to snapshots of experiences I've witnessed over the years. Loved his description of dawn. "But tomorrow dawn will come the way I piture her, barefoot and disheveled, standing outside my window in one of the fragile cotton dresses of the poor. She will look in at me with her thi ...more
Rebecca Trotter
If I had to pick a favorite Billy Collins collection, it would be this one.
Erik
Aug 28, 2008 Erik rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of poetry
Shelves: poetry
I'm about as unqualified to comment on poetry as a person can be. I don't read a lot of it, and I find the habitual need for cracking almost any book and reading aloud from said book displayed by most poetry fans to be... perturbing at times. Nevertheless, I found Billy Collins surprisingly easy to read and enjoyable. His poems were refreshingly free of the pretentiousness I (admittedly in my ignorance) ordinarily associate with poetry in general. While I'll never be a fan of poetry, Collins ma ...more
M.F. Soriano
I read Billy Collins for the first time a few months back, in the form of his book Picnic, Lightning. It dazzled me, that book. Now I'm reading a second Collins collection, an earlier collection than Picnic, and its got some of the same dazzle, but in this collection the dazzle looks like cheap sequins instead of solid gems. Makes me wonder if this earlier work just isn't as well developed, or if I actually got snookered the first time around.
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poetry 3 10 Aug 03, 2012 10:40PM  
Poetry Readers Ch...: The Art of Drowning 2 9 Jan 11, 2012 09:32AM  
  • Without: Poems
  • Otherwise: New & Selected Poems
  • What Narcissism Means to Me
  • Delights & Shadows
  • Rose
  • Good Poems for Hard Times
  • Say Uncle
  • Winter Hours: Prose, Prose Poems, and Poems
  • Different Hours
  • Sun Under Wood
  • New and Selected Poems, 1975-1995
  • The Kingdom of Ordinary Time: Poems
  • Strike Sparks: Selected Poems, 1980-2002
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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...
Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems The Trouble With Poetry - And Other Poems Nine Horses Picnic, Lightning Horoscopes for the Dead

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“In a while, one of us will go up to bed
and the other one will follow.
Then we will slip below the surface of the night
into miles of water, drifting down and down
to the dark, soundless bottom
until the weight of dreams pulls us lower still,
below the shale and layered rock,
beneath the strata of hunger and pleasure,
into the broken bones of the earth itself,
into the marrow of the only place we know.”
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