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The Art of Drowning

4.25  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,954 Ratings  ·  95 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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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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May 23, 2012 Chris rated it it was ok
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
Joanne Merriam
Jan 01, 2012 Joanne Merriam rated it really liked it
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
Dec 26, 2012 AnandaTashie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
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
Sep 08, 2015 KarmA1966 rated it really liked it
If this book only contained the titular poem it would be enough. I love the poem that much. I love the themes it explores -- how it touches on our fears, our memories, our self-inflated thoughts of the self, our egos reduced to the scales of a fish, and all of it wrapped in the familiar, humorous tone that Collins gives to even the grandest or gravest of themes he explores.

I found a youtube video of the poem , an animated short, narrated by the author.

And here, for your enjoyment, the poem its
May 03, 2016 Beth rated it really liked it
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
Aug 02, 2013 Florence rated it really liked it
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
Aug 28, 2008 Erik rated it liked it  ·  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
Nov 12, 2013 Dave rated it really liked it
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.
Jul 13, 2013 Cindy rated it really liked it 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
Alison O'Leary
May 14, 2014 Alison O'Leary rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 09, 2008 Joshua rated it it was amazing
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.
Dec 29, 2014 Joe rated it really liked it
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
Jul 15, 2016 Kendall rated it really liked it
One of my favorite of Collins'. Quiet, melancholic, but still fun in his way.
Jun 15, 2008 Justin rated it really liked it
Billy Collins writes good, solid, unashamed, every day poetry.
Aug 12, 2014 Sara rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, poetry
"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
Bill Keefe
Mar 10, 2013 Bill Keefe rated it really liked it
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
Sep 14, 2013 A.M. rated it it was amazing
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
Christina Rau
Aug 28, 2015 Christina Rau rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
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
Jun 09, 2015 Cheryl rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Actual Rating: 4.78 of 5 thorns

Conversational. Clever. The poems resonate long after the last word.

Most of the poems are a page or longer in length, and the book is split into four sections. The poems are diverse in subject and images but similar in theme. Each poem is its own masterpiece. The poems' themes and focus on intricate details weave together to manifest an experience for the reader. The poems encourage you to linger, to slowly immerse yourself in their elegance and explore their dept
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
Woody Blackmore
Mar 28, 2016 Woody Blackmore rated it it was amazing
Wonderfully pleasant, nostalgic and deceptively simple. I can read Collins' poetry for the pleasures in tone and imagery. As I get older and my personal sense of nostalgia deepens I enjoy his poetry more. "On Turning Ten" just rocks me: "This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,/as I walked through the universe in my sneakers." Right?
Hansen Wendlandt
Jul 26, 2011 Hansen Wendlandt rated it really liked it
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
Feb 11, 2015 Lori Widmer Bean rated it it was amazing
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.
Jake Cooper
Sep 17, 2015 Jake Cooper rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I'd bet Collins is to poetry as Dawkins is to biology: more popular outside the field. One of Collins's better collections, full of accessible smiles.

From "Thesaurus":
I can see my own copy high up on the shelf.
I rarely open it, because I know there is no
such thing as a synonym and I get nervous
around people who always assemble with their own kind
May 27, 2009 Sarah rated it really liked it
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
Death Beds
Man in Space
The Invention of the Saxophone
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
Jun 29, 2012 Julia rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
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
Nov 25, 2014 Kerstin rated it really liked it
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.
Rachelle Smith
Jul 06, 2016 Rachelle Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What I loved about this book is that it perfectly captures what I aspire to put into my poetry! Yes, he is talking about things that happen every day. The ordinary. He makes the ordinary magical!

A line on a paper is a horizon, a drive down the road is a peek into two sides of yourself, A saxophone is the emotion and life of late nighters!

This books is a reminder of how wonderful life really if if we pay attention. Plus, its written awfully damn well! Whew... what lines!
Apr 28, 2009 Eric rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
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
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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  
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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...

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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.”
More quotes…