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The Trouble With Poetry - And Other Poems

4.17  ·  Rating Details ·  4,914 Ratings  ·  387 Reviews
Playfulness, spare elegance, and wit epitomize the poetry of Billy Collins. With his distinct voice and accessible language, America s two-term Poet Laureate has opened the door to poetry for countless people for whom it might otherwise remain closed.
Like the present book s title, Collins s poems are filled with mischief, humor, and irony, Poetry speaks to all people, it
Paperback, 101 pages
Published March 2007 by Random House Trade (first published 2005)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Megan Baxter
Aug 19, 2015 Megan Baxter rated it really liked it
This was the second book, along with Guy Gavriel Kay's River of Stars, that I bought myself with a birthday gift certificate from my lovely friend Nele. I have only read one other collection of Billy Collins poetry, but it struck me so much that I needed to own it. I mean, needed to own it, with a deep and abiding desire to have it always around so I could flip through the pages and find favourite poems whenever I wanted.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Good
Shawn Sorensen
Oct 21, 2008 Shawn Sorensen rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Collins excels because he's readable and reassuring, yet often surprising. I read this right before I go to bed - it's that kind of book. Accessibility with the option to think about it as much as I have the energy for. I wish he would write in different styles - everything starts out with something like "I was sitting in my living room peeling a pear and staring out the window...". Everything in first person ultra-conversational. He can get a little too playful at times, but rarely is he smug. ...more
Clif Brittain
Jan 23, 2010 Clif Brittain rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People who like and don't like poetry.
The trouble with poetry is that I usually don't get it. Chickens in the rain and all that. I have even less of an ear for it. But actually, I do like the chickens in the rain stuff, as long as it is not too long.

I like Collins for three reasons:

His tastes are like mine. He likes the same things I do, dislikes the same things. So when he writes about the joy of hearing the Swan Silvertones, I have been there and enjoy that. He writes about some of life's perfect little moments that I've forgotten
Oct 07, 2014 John rated it liked it
I don't generally like poetry.
Oh, perhaps a little Robert Frost,
and some say parts of the Bible are poetry
and I like the Bible.

But, other than that, bleah!

So my daughter-in-law, Shannon,
hoping to retrieve me
from the land of poetry illiterates,
loaned me her book of Billy Collins poems.

"If you don't like these,"
she suggested darkly,
"there is no hope for you."

So I read Collins' poems,
or is it the poems of Collins?
Well, no matter, I read them.

And what did I find?
Not poetry,
but philosophic prose brok
Apr 12, 2012 Sara rated it did not like it
After being disgusted by Ballistics, I didn't figure I'd ever pick up Billy again. But I found his poems multiple times in anthologies, and liked them. I was surprised to realize they were his, because they were so good. And so I found another book hoping I'd like him. I don't. Those poems I liked were earlier, much earlier, from the nineties. Everything I've found more recent is worse. So unless I find his very first book of poems, I won't seek out any more Billy.
I should note what I don't lik
Nov 24, 2008 Emma rated it it was amazing
This might be my favorite of his books. I haven't read all of them, but I have read most. It's the only one I can recall where he comes across, at times, as vulnerable or forlorn. He's always a master technician of the line, but also of this delicate, light-as-air tone. In this collection, there is sorrow, even a man contemplating his own mortality. That all really appealed to me. It takes him off the poetry pedestal and places him square in the ranks with the rest of us sincere-hearted fumblers ...more
Sep 01, 2007 Allen rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The trouble with Billy Collins is he has one formula for a poem which he works over and over.
Dec 17, 2008 Tawny rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Favorite lines:

From "Carry"
I want to carry you
and for you to carry me
the way voices are said to carry over water.

It has been calculated that each copy of the
Gutenberg Bible required the skins of 300 sheep.

I can see them squeezed into the holding pen
behind the stone building
where the printing press is housed,
all of them squirming around
to find a little room
and looking so much alike
it would be nearly impossible
to count them,
and there is no telling
which one will carry the news
that the Lord
Jun 11, 2009 CA rated it did not like it
I'd rather drink battery acid!
No sense drinking battery acid without lemon!

James Murphy
Nov 19, 2009 James Murphy rated it it was amazing
The cover of this book is a whimsical painting of a bear, almost a cartoon rendering of a bear. It points to the playfulness beneath the cover. One thing so appealing about Billy Collins is that he gives us serious poetry which he seems to not take seriously at all. There's plenty of frolicsome exuberance here and in his poetry as a whole. But unstated in his style is the understanding that he chooses to look at ideas with an impish eye, and also that one may come away from his verse thinking hi ...more
Jun 14, 2009 Lindsey rated it it was amazing
I don't think Billy Collins is the absolute best poet, but he is hands down my personal favorite. I loved this collection, just as I always love his collections, and some of the highlights here were "Bereft," "The Introduction," "Flock," "You, Reader," and "The Drawing Class." "The Lanyard," which happens to be one of my all-time favorite poems, is also in this volume; I first heard Collins read it several years ago on "A Prairie Home Companion," and it totally cracked me up. He's just the great ...more
Jun 12, 2009 Cole rated it really liked it
A surprise "just because" gift from my friend Nathan, I read this book tonight in one sitting. I wanted to get out of the house, but no one was available, so I cracked the cover planning to read just one poem and ended up finishing the collection. Although graduate school has made me wonder if I will ever truly "read for pleasure" again (without a pen and a pencil and a higlighter and a straightedge in hand), Collins once again proved his poems are like butter cookies-- sweet, delicious and befo ...more
Jan 08, 2009 Cami rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Rachel, Jen,
Shelves: poetry
I really liked this poet!
It was a lot like reading a modern Robert Frost (and I think that is a great compliment).
I like that this collection seemed to highlight the creative process throughout.
Drawing Class
I Ask You
Special Glasses
The Lanyard (a must read for mothers who feel unappreciated)
Jan 07, 2009 Kate rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed-by-kate
Collins has a way of capturing moments of wonder in verse that is graceful and lovely without calling attention to itself as difficult, the way so much poetry does. The moment can't be held; it passes through us, and these poems do also, but they leave me with the sensation of the writer living life well, living life alert to beauty and story in myriad ordinary moments.
Dec 28, 2008 Bill rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
This is the first I have read Billy Collins and I am glad to have come across him at this point. His verse is clear, concise and accessible. I don't know how appreciated he may be by younger readers, but he certainly appeals to my 40 something sensibility.
Anna W.
Mar 30, 2015 Anna W. rated it really liked it
I read probably 3/4ths of this. I liked several of the poems and reallllly liked The Lanyard and The Revenant. Very hard hitting but in very different ways. I couldn't be more vague.
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(Am I allowed to start with a picture of an arm wrestling movie - Over the Top - to review a book of poetry? This may be breaking all the rules.)

Holy camoly. What did I just read?
I laughed! I cried!
No, really. I truly laughed and truly cried.

I'm terrible at reading poetry, and I think I know why. I don't want to be wrong. It's the same reason that I'm both great and terrible at games like Trivial Pursuit. I have loads of useless knowledge floating around, but I don't dare drag it o
Courtney Johnston
Mar 04, 2012 Courtney Johnston rated it liked it
The more poetry I read, the more simple I find Billy Collins. And then once he detects me finding him simple, he gives he a little lovetap to bring me back in line. The title poem:

The trouble with poetry, I realized
as I walked along a beach one night -
cold Florida sand under my bare feet,
a show of stars in the sky -

the trouble with poetry is
that it encourages the writing of more poetry,
more guppies crowding the fish tank,
more baby rabbits
hopping out of their mothers into the dewy grass.

And how w
Jan 26, 2015 Alarie rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I didn’t like this as well as some of Collins’ other collections, but I almost gave it five stars just for containing one of my favorite poems, “The Lanyard.” (If you don’t know it, go to YouTube and hear him recite it.) “Revenant,” in the voice of a euthanized pet, is also five stars: “I am the dog you put to sleep…/come back to tell you this simple thing:/I never liked you – not one bit.” At times, though, the poems in this collection were off putting, either calling too much attention to them ...more
Ashlee Draper Galyean
Oct 09, 2013 Ashlee Draper Galyean rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
"I closed my eyes and though / about the alphabet, / the letters filing out of the halls of kindergarten / to become literature."

"...and these three candles / each a different height, singing in perfect harmony. So forgive me / if I lower my head and listen / to the short bass candle as he takes a solo..."

It's hard to rate a collection of work as I loved some, appreciated others, and cared little for a few as well. And I also don't normally read collections straight through as I know they weren'
Aug 30, 2011 Gloria rated it really liked it
Some of the warmest and most accessible poetry I've read.

From poets and their need of windows:

Just think-
before the invention of the window,
the poets would have had to put on a jacket
and winter hat to go outside
or remain indoors with only a wall to stare at.

And when I say a wall,
I do not mean a wall with striped wallpaper
and a sketch of a cow in a frame.

I mean a cold wall of fieldstones,
the wall of the medieval sonnet,
the original woman's heart of stone,
the stone caught in the throat of her
Mary Beth
Nov 23, 2012 Mary Beth rated it liked it
Favorites from this book:
"Monday," which begins, "The birds are in their trees, / The toast is in the toaster, / and the poets are at their windows."

"Special Glasses" that keep out "the harmful sight of you -"...."just as the night air passes through the screen but not the mosquito"

"Genius" which includes the lines:

I thought the swans afloat on the reservoir
were the true geniuses

the ones who had figured out how to fly,
how to be both beautiful and brutal,
and how to mate for life.

Oct 17, 2008 H.N. rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I'd heard that Billy Collins was a very spare, yet accessible poet, and I found this collection to be very enjoyable and engaging. Of course, it's the first I've read of his collections, so perhaps I'll like others better. Still, he inspired me to write a poem, so I'll give this 4 stars and seek out other books of his at the library. Several of the poems were delightful and he has a quiet wit and humor evident in most of the poems in this collection.
Apr 06, 2012 Julia rated it it was amazing
I was very satisfied with this read! This was really my first attempt at reading poetry, and I have to say, I really enjoyed it! I didn't think poetry could be so easy, funny, and interesting to read, but Billy Collins proved me wrong. Every line seemed to be so simple yet so thought provoking. An excellent read for any newcomer to poetry, like myself ;)
Thank you Whitney, for introducing me to this amazing poet though your youtube video!
Feb 09, 2009 Bruce rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, 2009-reading
This is an accessible and enjoyable collection, if at times a little repetitive. At times I wanted to say okay Billy, I got it, you got up, made a cup of coffee, sat down and looked out the window, and wrote this poem.

On the other hand, The Lanyard is a pure delight, and universal in its conception and meaning. I also enjoyed the Reaper, Revenant, and Carry. A good book to introduce someone to contemporary poetry.
Apr 12, 2008 AC rated it liked it
Collins' works in general are well worth the read. In this collection he does well with sketches about everyday life. In some cases the poems seem too brief as if he believes what has been put down resonates more deeply and fully than it actually does, these missteps are few and the overall collection does not suffer much for it.
Feb 13, 2012 Clay rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
Sorry, Collins. There were select poems in the book that I liked, but I just couldn't animate myself about the observational after observational poem. I got discouraged by the tone, and in the end I found myself not enjoying poems that I really wanted to enjoy.

I may have to give Collins a chance another time, but this collection did not speak to me right now.
Oct 20, 2008 Marti rated it really liked it
I heard Billy Collins read at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry festival. I loved his sense of humor and the accessibility of his poetry. I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of his poems, and have to admit that he reminded me of the bear on the book cover.
Jul 09, 2015 Gill rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I used an audio version for this, which worked very well. It's something I've tried with other poets with no great success sometimes. The advantage with Billy Collins is that he intends many of his poems to be performed out loud. I enjoyed the collection.
Nov 09, 2015 Melissa rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
I was expecting poetry that wasn't so formulaic of poetry. You'd think with a title like this we would get something less the norm? But nope. This is the same kind of stuff you can get anywhere titled as POETRY.
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Writing poems 1 3 Apr 03, 2015 03:18PM  
  • Delights and Shadows
  • Otherwise: New and Selected Poems
  • Fuel
  • Good Poems for Hard Times
  • Different Hours
  • Why I Wake Early
  • Without: Poems
  • The Niagara River
  • Given Sugar, Given Salt
  • Donkey Gospel
  • Braided Creek
  • Migration: New and Selected Poems
  • The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems
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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“...the trouble with poetry is
that it encourages the writing of more poetry...
“I could feel the day offering itself to me,
and I wanted nothing more
than to be in the moment-but which moment?
Not that one, or that one, or that one,”
More quotes…