Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Picnic, Lightning” as Want to Read:
Picnic, Lightning
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Picnic, Lightning

4.28 of 5 stars 4.28  ·  rating details  ·  2,832 ratings  ·  163 reviews
Winner of the 1999 Paterson Poetry Prize

Over the past decade, Billy Collins has emerged as the most beloved American poet since Robert Frost, garnering critical acclaim and broad popular appeal. Annie Proulx admits, "I have never before felt possessive about a poet, but I am fiercely glad that Billy Collins is ours." John Updike proclaims his poems "consistently startling...more
Paperback, 104 pages
Published 1998 by University of Pittsburgh Press
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Picnic, Lightning, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Picnic, Lightning

The Complete Poems by Emily DickinsonLeaves of Grass by Walt WhitmanThe Waste Land and Other Poems by T.S. EliotShakespeare's Sonnets by William ShakespeareAriel by Sylvia Plath
Best Poetry Books
71st out of 1,397 books — 1,521 voters
A World of Verse by Christopher  ShieldsThe Iliad/The Odyssey by HomerThe Poetry of Robert Frost by Robert FrostThe Collected Poems by W.B. YeatsMeeting With Christ and Other Poems by Deepak Chaswal
Poetry
45th out of 292 books — 149 voters


More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Stephen M
Apr 14, 2012 Stephen M marked it as to-read
Shelves: poetry
Some Days

Some days I put the people in their places at the table,
bend their legs at the knees,
if they come with that feature,
and fix them into the tiny wooden chairs.

All afternoon they face one another,
the man in the brown suit,
the woman in the blue dress,
perfectly motionless, perfectly behaved.

But other days, I am the one
who is lifted up by the ribs,
then lowered into the dining room of a dollhouse
to sit with the others at the long table.

Very funny,
but how would you like it
if you never knew fro...more
T.
Oct 02, 2011 T. rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
Here's one of my favourite poems from this collection:
Marginalia
Billy Collins

Sometimes the notes are ferocious,
skirmishes against the author
raging along the borders of every page
in tiny black script.
If I could just get my hands on you,
Kierkegaard, or Conor Cruise O’Brien,
they seem to say,
I would bolt the door and beat some logic into your head.

Other comments are more offhand, dismissive -
“Nonsense.” “Please!” “HA!!” -
that kind of thing.
I remember once looking up from my reading,
my thumb as a boo
...more
Annie
Billy Collins is my favorite poet. Reading his books are truly an incredible experience. He transforms simple, common occurances and images into a quiet,vivid, transcending experience. His works give you a deep appreciation for life-all you have experienced and all you have yet to. I LOVE HIS COLLECTION!
J.j.
I'll say this up front and with all due respect. If you do not care for poetry, don't review it with one star. Simply don't review it at all. I don't know the first thing about engineering; I don't take the time to read engineering books, then drone on about how dull and inexplicable their content is and pan them.

That being said - I know a lot of contemporary poets tend to rail against Collins for what I can only assume is the fact that he is popular and they are not. I find his work hit-or-miss...more
Amey
Apr 19, 2013 Amey rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
1. A Portrait of the Reader with a Bowl of Cereal

Every morning I sit across from you
at the same small table,
the sun all over the breakfast things—
curve of a blue-and-white pitcher,
a dish of berries—
me in a sweatshirt or robe,
you invisible.
Most days, we are suspended
over a deep pool of silence.
I stare straight through you
or look out the window at the garden,
the powerful sky,
a cloud passing behind a tree.
There is no need to pass the toast,
the pot of jam,
or pour you a cup of tea,
and I can hide behi...more
Andrea
Didn't mean to re-read this whole book, but picked it up to read while my niece was reading, and couldn't put it back down. There are so many favorites in this book, so many that send chills of recognition with the last line, and others that make me laugh, and even more often, the chill-sending lines, and funny lines, come right after each other. Every time I laughed, my niece asked me what was funny, and so I read her poems, and bits of poems, and sometimes she got the humor, and sometimes she...more
Rachel
There are some really good poems in this book, MAYBE one or two great ones… but the good stuff to filler ratio seems skewed to the negative.
Kip Arney
First off, I'll just come right out and say you'll never hear me give a positive review of a poem or a book of poems unless it starts with Roses are red, Violets are blue...or something of that nature. And therefore do not let my review sway you one way or the other about wanting to read this book.

I don't understand poetry, I don't understand the style of writing, I don't understand the definition of poetry. This book did nothing to clear up any of my questions. Just a bunch of fragmented senten...more
Patrick
Collins will stun you with his simplicity in this work. Just when you thought analyzing the most important moments in life was the work of an author, Collins turns you on your ear. He makes the world a simple place, where life is not a search for answers, but an observation of the personal passage that makes every individual unique and commonplace at the same time. He is a master of his art in many ways. Some of the poems, you will find quite commonplace and not at all illuminating. However, jus...more
Punk
Jun 14, 2009 Punk rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
Poetry. This volume shows a more serious side of Collins. Like all his work, these poems are easy to read -- the language straightforward and relaxed -- but the tone's a bit different. For the most part, these poems are quiet and reflective, not what I've come to expect from Collins. I missed the overt silliness, but he still brings his playful humor to the domestic, and throws in a hint of sadness too. He spends a lot of time talking about his house, jazz, his writing.

Some favorites: A Portrai...more
Joan
The poem 'I Go Back to the House for a Book' speaks so strongly to me, as I suspect it would for many readers. The idea is that by going back into the house to get the book that you split yourself into a couple of people, one of whom is always tagging behind the other (who didn't go back to get the book). If 'true', I'm a long queue by now...

Another poem in this collection that I love because it is local to Philadelphia is 'Fishing on the Susquehanna in July', although I guess a lot of people wh...more
Jimmy
Always a joy to read Billy.
Heather
collins' poetry is amorphous, not only in their shape and style, but also in the feelings they capture. he's got some lovely imagery "buzzing around the room on caffeine"...but it seems like he never really goes anywhere meanful with it. while i don't hate his work - he's got some talent - i'm hard pressed to say how he wound up poet laureate.
Joe S
Billy Collins became our poet laureate in 2001 and 2003 by copying out the least boring sections of his journal and adding line breaks between every grammatical clause, proving definitively that the American public has no ear for pleasing sounds and no eye for moderately evocative images.
Hansen Wendlandt
Disclosure: I’ve been reading consecutively Russian classics and Billy Collins. So, it came as a complete shock that this Collins book of poetry is entitled after a line of Nabokov!
Picnic, Lightning starts immediately (before the four collections) with “A Portrait of the Reader” as a tender, powerful glimpse of living together, “ready to listen”. Following eventually is “This Much I Remember”, which speaks of “the small coin of that moment, minted in the Kingdom, that we pace through ever day,”...more
Erica
I read this on the bus, admittedly not the best place to read poetry, but it still managed to make me smile and think. I read and really loved two of Collins' other collections, Nine Horses and Sailing Lone Around the Room, so was not at all surprised that I also liked this one.

What I like about Collins is that he seems so transparent and honest (probably a poetic illusion). He kind of seems like a puttery guy who spends a lot of time in his house. He writes poems about trying to write poems ab...more
AnandaTashie
Really enjoyed this book of poetry. Some favorite pieces:

p 23, "Silence" - Now it is time to say what you have to say. / The room is quiet. / The whirring fan has been unplugged, / and the girl who was tapping / a pencil on her desktop has been removed. // So tell us what us on your mind. / We want to hear the sound of your foliage, / the unraveling of your tool kit, your songs of loneliness, / your songs of hurt. ...

p 46, "Moon" - ... And if your house has no child, / you can always gather into...more
Chris
Some called this simplistic. Some call it refined. Some call it beautiful.

I call it boring as all hell. When they say "poetry is useless beauty," I think this exactly what they are talking about. Collins' style is bland at best, and just a playin' waste of time at worst. The poem of him inspecting the women in a Victoria Secret catalog rang slightly disturbing.

There are moment of lucidity in the book, as if Collins realized that poetry takes time, energy, and concentration to make it really wor...more
Katie
I can't say that this is my all-time favorite collection of Billy Collins', but I adore him nonetheless so he gets 5 stars, regardless. I feel like true poetry purists probably scoff at his works because he's too popular and not high-brow enough, but this simplicity is why I love him. If I want to dig deep into his poetry and find the hidden meanings, I can, but if I just want to read through a poem and enjoy it, that's more than doable. His works are also so "relatable" and I find myself noddin...more
Paul
Feb 02, 2013 Paul rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
Billy Collins just writes about what is around him (including the process of noticing and writing), simply and plainly. He's obviously in love with words and the relationships between words and things and people and ideas. He wraps up "Aristotle" (pp. 101-102) at the close of the book with...
And this is the end,
the car running out of road,
the river losing its name in an ocean,
the long nose of the photographed horse
touching the white electronic line.
This is the colophon, the last elephant in the
...more
Hester Thorpe
I don't think there's ever been a Billy Collins collection that I've not liked, but I'm so partial to this one. It has many of my absolute favourite poems of this - Shoveling Snow with Buddha, To a Stranger Born in Some Distant Country Hundreds of Years from Now, I Chop Some Parsley While Listening to Art Blakley's Version of "Three Blind Mice"....but by far, my favourite will always be this one. Any time I read it, I'm immediately transported back to a poetry reading at Dickinson, when Matt Fah...more
Kerry
While on a bit of a poetry spree, I picked up some books by former U.S. Poet Laureate, Billy Collins, including: The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems, Horoscopes for the Dead, Ballistics, Sailing Alone Around the Room and Picnic, Lightning. I am a big fan of Collins’ work and had high expectations that were more than met by each collection. Each of them were filled with the quirky humor, wry observations and moments of lyrical musings that I have come to expect from Billy Collins. His accessi...more
Jessica brown
This collection of poems was very interesting because I normally don’t like poems. Though the line up for Billy Collins was different than most artist’s I think it really caught my eye. He had different poems that related to so many people. I know I would like to read this book again because it really was calming to read. I loved his cover and the title because I took it in a different way rather than just a title of one of his poems. The picture on the cover was part of one of his poems so he p...more
Rustam
So I have a story about this guy. I first read one of his poems in Harper's and I was intrigued by the playfulness in his poem. So I went out and started getting his books and was impressed by the balance he strikes between accessibility and depth. So, my friend and I went to see him read at Mira Costa college, and when we walked into the gymnasium where he was reading, we were taken aback by the audience's extreme reactions to his reading the punch lines. They were LOL'ing all over the place, s...more
Jojo
I like Billy Collins and have done since I was assigned to write an essay about one of his poems in my poetry class in college. I'm still not sure why I took a poetry class to start with, as I didn't like poetry at the time (and am no great poetry lover now, to be truthful, although it has its moments). But I'm glad I did, if only because I never would have become acquainted with my very most favorite poem ever ("Nostalgia") if I had not.

But "Nostalgia" is not in this collection, and this is the...more
Helene W.
I have never read a full book of poetry, and maybe I should just stick to poems that rhyme. Yes Billy Collins is a great writer and makes his poems relatable to a lot of people, but not to me. The poems seemed truly nature focus, as if most of his inspirations came from right out his back window, yet I don't experience that on a day to day basis because I like the cities more. He has an older voice too as a writer, and likes to allude to different people and events that I just don't know about,...more
Joem
I'm extremely picky when it comes to poetry. Some might assume that I just don't like it, and that is the simple answer I give some people when pressed. But I'm really just quite picky. As of writing this review, I only own two poetry books: this, and an Ogden Nash book. Like the Nash, there's a fair bit of humor in this book, and that's what initially grabbed me. But there's less focus on rhymes (I'm not actually sure if there's any rhyming in this book), and more focus on... wistfulness, I thi...more
Lydia
I was never much for modern poetry. It always seemed like the poets were trying too hard to be clever and tried so hard that they forgot that we needed to understand them! I didn't want poetry to be so much work! But when I ran across Billy Collins, it was amazing! He has a comfortable voice, like a cup of tea at the end of a long day. You always get the impression that he is speaking directly to you. He is my favorite poet and all of his collections are a delight to read.

This particular collec...more
Jessie
So light and un-urgent, humorous with a little *sigh* at the end of some; poems about such ordinary things; lots of non-pretentious ones about art, ekphrastic poems I think they're called. Some highlights:
One that many writers will love, called "Morning," opening:

"Why do we bother with the rest of the day,
the swale of the afternoon,
the sudden dip into evening,

then night with his notorious perfumes,
his many-pointed stars?"

And for readers: "Marginalia" that ends beautifully with the discovery of s...more
Simon
Billy Collins' poetry is accessible, witty, often funny, and yet deep. With every poem, you learn something, live through a story, a slice of life, or an experience.
Picnic, Lightning is probably the go-to Billy Collins introduction, as this volume contains most of his popular and accessible poems. In fact, nearly every poem here belongs to my favourites.
I highly recommend this, to quote Collins, amusement park of a book.

To get an impression, look for his 'Forgetfulness' or 'Another Reason Why I...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Circle of Books: Poetry 1 1 Nov 30, 2013 07:33PM  
  • Delights & Shadows
  • Otherwise: New & Selected Poems
  • Without: Poems
  • Why I Wake Early
  • Rose
  • Donkey Gospel
  • Smoke
  • After
  • Fuel
  • Different Hours
  • The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems
  • Good Poems
  • The Gold Cell (Knopf Poetry Series)
438
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 Horoscopes for the Dead Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry

Share This Book

Marginalia

Sometimes the notes are ferocious,
skirmishes against the author
raging along the borders of every page
in tiny black script.
If I could just get my hands on you,
Kierkegaard, or Conor Cruise O'Brien,
they seem to say,
I would bolt the door and beat some logic into your head.

Other comments are more offhand, dismissive -
Nonsense." "Please!" "HA!!" -
that kind of thing.
I remember once looking up from my reading,
my thumb as a bookmark,
trying to imagine what the person must look like
who wrote "Don't be a ninny"
alongside a paragraph in The Life of Emily Dickinson.

Students are more modest
needing to leave only their splayed footprints
along the shore of the page.
One scrawls "Metaphor" next to a stanza of Eliot's.
Another notes the presence of "Irony"
fifty times outside the paragraphs of A Modest Proposal.

Or they are fans who cheer from the empty bleachers,
Hands cupped around their mouths.
Absolutely," they shout
to Duns Scotus and James Baldwin.
Yes." "Bull's-eye." "My man!"
Check marks, asterisks, and exclamation points
rain down along the sidelines.

And if you have managed to graduate from college
without ever having written "Man vs. Nature"
in a margin, perhaps now
is the time to take one step forward.

We have all seized the white perimeter as our own
and reached for a pen if only to show
we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages;
we pressed a thought into the wayside,
planted an impression along the verge.

Even Irish monks in their cold scriptoria
jotted along the borders of the Gospels
brief asides about the pains of copying,
a bird singing near their window,
or the sunlight that illuminated their page-
anonymous men catching a ride into the future
on a vessel more lasting than themselves.

And you have not read Joshua Reynolds,
they say, until you have read him
enwreathed with Blake's furious scribbling.

Yet the one I think of most often,
the one that dangles from me like a locket,
was written in the copy of Catcher in the Rye
I borrowed from the local library
one slow, hot summer.
I was just beginning high school then,
reading books on a davenport in my parents' living room,
and I cannot tell you
how vastly my loneliness was deepened,
how poignant and amplified the world before me seemed,
when I found on one page

A few greasy looking smears
and next to them, written in soft pencil-
by a beautiful girl, I could tell,
whom I would never meet-
Pardon the egg salad stains, but I'm in love.”
338 likes
More quotes…