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Nine Horses

4.16 of 5 stars 4.16  ·  rating details  ·  3,371 ratings  ·  194 reviews
In Nine Horses, Billy Collins, America's Poet Laureate for 2001- 2003, continues his delicate negotiation between the clear and the mysterious, the comic and the elegiac. The poems in this collection reach dazzling heights while being firmly grounded in the everyday. Traveling by train, lying on a beach, and listening to jazz on the radio are the seemingly ordinary activit ...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published October 14th 2003 by Random House Trade (first published 2002)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Let me start by saying: I KNOW ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ABOUT POETRY! In grad school I intentionally steered clear of any class that had to analyze poetry in any aspect. It’s not that I was afraid of the work; it was more that the work overwhelmed me. How does one exactly go about analyzing the thoughts of a person when the words are directed at allusions and people and places and times that the reader may have little to no knowledge of?

Years have passed since my chickening out, and I have decided to
David Barbero

"you are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine."
-- jacques crickillon

you are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
you are the dew on the morning grass,
and the burning wheel of the sun.
you are the white apron of the baker
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

however, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
and you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
there is no way you are the pine-scented air.

it is possible
I would not call myself a fan of poetry by any stretch of the imagination. I avoided poetry classes as much as possible while getting my English degree, and suffered and rolled my eyes through the ones I had to take. This is an enormous generalization, but poetry usually feels to me like it's obscure for the sake of obscurity. "If I hide my thoughts beneath 8 different layers of allusion and metaphor and break them up into nearly meaningless little fragments, I'll look deep and thoughtful and ar ...more
Hansen Wendlandt
After reading Nine Horses was the first time I've ever gone immediately online to order the rest of an author's works. It's as good as poetry can get for someone who appreciates poetry without any formal study. Collins has an impeccable style, longer poems than Dickinson (which can just scroll by), but short enough to keep full attention. Shakespeare might push layers of meaning onto single words, but Collins has an uncanny way of using a straightfoward line that means one thing with the previou ...more
Billy Collins has a dry sense of humor and a talent for capturing the essence of a thing in one or two lines. That shows through in some of these poems, but all in all, the collection is too pleasant to be very interesting. I hate the idea that writers must be tortured and miserable to create anything worth reading--they don't--but too many of these poems revolve around the meandering thoughts of an upper-class, over-educated, middle-aged, and above all deeply self-satisfied man. There's just no ...more
I love Billy Collins! I have read most of this book, I like to pick it up now and again when I need to be reminded of what honest and uninhibited writing is like. Some of the poems I have read multiple times others I have yet to read.
If you're debating about reading Billy Collins, or any poetry for that matter, you MUST check him out. Here's a sample to show you that poetry can be beautiful, but funny, too (I was reading this in bed, and laughed out loud -- actually woke my husband -- because I could just SEE this little mouse...):

"The Country"
I wondered about you
when you told me never to leave
a box of wooden, strike-anywhere matches
lying around the house because the mice

might get into them and start a fire.
But your face was
Patricia J. O'Brien
I like poetry that is first of all honest, followed by language that has cadence, vivid imagery and emotional impact. It can be witty or painful or anything in between if it has the other ingredients like Billy Collins's Nine Horses.
Some may disagree with me, but I don't think poetry has to be epic in length or carry a heavy weight of import. For me, it needs to be a snapshot of life that resonates like a bell.
For instance, I love the way "Aimless Love" opens: "This morning as I walked along the
Nine Horses is a collection of poetry for those of us who have attained some of the patience and wisdom that come with middle age. "We must always look at things from the point of view of eternity," he says in "Velocity," and the book is a celebration of the subtlety of life, the beauty in inanimate objects we normally take for granted and those moments in time absent of the drama humans seem to crave - romance, riches, the thrill of victory.

If the poet were younger, Collins admits, "I might be
He is called "sensible and gifted," and I have to laugh; I bet not many poets want to be called sensible, I imagine they are looking for more flowery adjectives like passionate or brilliant. But these poems aren't really either, they are, well, sensible. But gifted! I like his imagery:

"But my heart is always propped up
in a field on its tripod
ready for the next arrow." Aimless Love

"As one bucket after another
of warm water was poured over my lowered head,
I stopped thinking of who and what to than
I am truly mystified why this guy is "the most popular poet in America," according to the New York Times. His poems are like making a great to-do about hopping around in a tiny circle, or like reading someone's tweets narrating what they had for breakfast. His poems are all very brief snapshots, without much that provides any kind of resonance. They are easy to understand, which is perhaps the reason why they are "popular," but I didn't get much out of the read. Collins leans heavily on first pe ...more

How exhilarating it was to march
along the great boulevards
in the sunflash of trumpets
and under all the waving flags—
the flag of ambition, the flag of love.

So many of us streaming along—
all of humanity, really—
moving in perfect step,
yet each lost in the room of a private dream.

How stimulating the scenery of the world,
the rows of roadside trees,
the huge curtain of the sky.

How endless it seemed until we veered
off the broad turnpike
into a pasture of high grass,
headed toward the dizzying cl
Apr 28, 2015 E rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
Finally, someone captures the horrific pain and angst of getting that horrible tune caught in your head for hours, even days, in "More than a Woman." (For a real treat, pull it up on You-Tube and hear Collins' amusing intro before he reads it out loud.) The final poem, "Poetry," is a funny, lovely, and wise treatise on how poetry has a different job than fiction or drama. Collins is such an exceptional observer of the unexceptional--how the quotidian is the most extraordinary thing we can ever e ...more
Heather Moss
One may wonder why I have this book if it only garnered one star. There are two reasons: one, it was a gift and I always feel guilty selling gifts. Two, sometimes I like to remind myself of just how wide the chasm is between the poetry I like/write and the poetry that is popular. I am sure Mr. Collins is a wonderful person, and I know his work means a lot to many people, but it's really not for me.
John Curtis
This is what happens when a writer becomes a parody of his or herself. Billy Collins' stuff was charming and refreshing enough to get away with writing the same two or three poems over and over again for several books. However, a second decade of poems about wine, jazz, and laid-back Italian vacations tries one's patience.
Oct 09, 2007 Frank rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Billy Collins fans
It's never unpleasant to read Billy Collins, but the payoffs of this collection's 51 poems seemed smaller than those of his Sailing Alone Around the Room. That's not surprising, given that the latter collects standout poems from his whole career. Still, this book's offerings often felt a little too light, too precious.
I normally mark poems that I particularly enjoy with slips of paper. I stopped doing that with this collection after a few pages because I realized that I was marking every poem. I think that this might have just become my favorite collection of poetry. I am truly in love.
My favorite lines, from the poem Love :

I saw him looking up at her
and what she was doing
the way the eyes of saints are painted

when they are looking up at God
when he is doing something remarkable,
something that identifies him as God.
I. Love. This. Poet. What a fabulous writer! It is so easy to get caught up in the images his writing evokes; the sense of wonder and comfort, of days gone by and memories that are awakened. It is no wonder he was a Poet Laureate. Fabulous!
i love his poems. it's like a mix of the metaphysical with a dash of secret english major jokes.
This was a fantastic collection of poetry. I loved the whole thing. Every poem was beautiful and interesting, the book as a whole felt like a unit despite the decided lack of thematic unity between poems. "Poetry", the last poem in the collection was especially good, as was "Albany". This was a great example of modern poetry, almost entirely free verse, with a great mix of seriousness and humor. The title poem is well done and really captures the haunting nature of the piece of art he is describ ...more
Paul McNeil
I have to begin by saying that I haven't read much English poetry outside of high school, so my opinions on such things may not hold much weight. However, I worked for a few years at a university bookstore, and one day on the job I needed to go to a poet's reading in an auditorium on campus and sell copies of his book after the event. The poet, as you may have guessed already, was Collins, and his style of reading was 2 parts poet and one part stand-up comedian- I just remember having a lot of f ...more
I'd read all of Collins's collections except for this one and the most recent.

I can say I enjoyed the book in a very general way, but I'm left thinking: Hmmm... Isn't this a little dumbed-down? Is it really what I think of when I think (eek!) "poetry"? I generally like early Collins better than later Collins. He seems to be one poet who has not improved with writing or with age. Just my opinion. I preferred the earlier sections of this collection. By section IV, I'd lost some interest or the poe
Feb 18, 2013 Amey rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
#1 Drawing

Ink strokes on rice paper -
a wooden bridge
curved over a river,

mountains in the distance,
and in the foreground
a wind-blown tree.

I rotate the book on the table
so the tree
is leaning toward your village.

#2 Velocity

In the club car that morning I had my notebook
open on my lap and my pen uncapped,
looking every inch the writer
right down to the little writer’s frown on my face,

but there was nothing to write
about except life and death
and the low warning so
I'd loved the few Billy Collins' poems I had read, but I hadn't read many. One evening last week I was hanging around my parents' house, sitting on a porch swing in the back yard while the children played in the sand when it occurred to me that I was enjoying a rather idyllic moment, but that it would be better if I had a book. So I wandered in the house, found a book case, and picked out _Nine Horses_. (I'm sure it's yours, Laurie, but I've stolen it now; you can steal it back though.) So I'm n ...more
Dan Gobble
Another great collection of poems by Billy Collins! One of my favorites, "Litany", reveals his clever toying with words and ideas, pushing a thought around as playful as if they were a feather twisting and turning in a March breeze. He begins this poem by quoting two lines from Jacques Crickillon:
"You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine."
Collins follows that thought with these lines:

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the mor
Billy Collins is a popular poet because there is nothing complex or hidden about his writing. You will never feel like "you didn't get it." It's the type of writing you can confidently gift to someone who knows absolutely nothing about poetry. In fact, it looks like a lot of the goodreads reviews are by people who "avoided poetry" in all other forms but somehow like Collins. Why? Because each poem is written in full, simple sentences. Each poem is a snapshot of some common and relatable experien ...more
Michael Ferch's "Description" of this book in the synopsis here is cruel and shitty. "Banal?" "Little music?" Whatever, dude. You just can't hear his music, and you wouldn't know a good poem if it came up and bit you in the ass. Billy Collins gets bashed by a lot of people, but why? Is it a crime to write poetry that appeals to a wide audience, that doesn't scream at you, that speaks plainly, that says "I am a human being and that means I am simple and complex, just like everybody else"? Collins ...more
Jun 19, 2007 Casey rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: EVERYONE WHO CAN READ
Billy Collins is a joy to read; beautiful, poignant, lighthearted, intelligent, all at once. Like listening to a more lyrical version of your favorite Uncle, or family friend tell a story at the end of a big dinner by candlelight.

I saw him at a poetry reading in Manchester, VT in an old church with about 50 other people, including my father and sister. Dana and I were too shy to go with our Dad to have BC sign our books, so we stood outside in the church parking lot and watched the back of his b
" I am wondering if you are even listening/and why I bother to tell you these things/that will never make a difference..." (from "Night Letter to a Reader," B. Collins)

But they do. They do make a difference. Perhaps it is not what Billy Collins is saying that is important so much as how he says it -- with the courage of simplicity. He speaks in words that resonate like music in the heart, not as symphonies or brass bands, but with the smoky blues of a darkness that must sometimes enfold th
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Poetry Readers Ch...: Nine Horses by Billy Collins 8 24 Jul 22, 2013 12:25PM  
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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 Picnic, Lightning Horoscopes for the Dead Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry

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