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Ballistics: Poems

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  1,994 ratings  ·  241 reviews
In this moving and playful collection, Billy Collins touches on an array of subjects—love, death, solitude, youth, and aging—delving deeper than ever before into the intricate folds of life.
Paperback, 113 pages
Published February 16th 2010 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 2008)
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Collins once told an interviewer, “I think what really happened psychologically is that I started off writing in the voice of my father (wise-cracking) and only later did I find a way to admit my mother (generous, empathetic). And I didn’t even need long sessions on the couch to figure that out.” The humor is what’s always drawn me to him, but he’s deceptively serious at times, too. Interviews also show that he’s completely dedicated to his craft. Poet laureates are bound to be.

Now that I’ve re
What can I say?

It's another volume of wonderful poetry from Billy Collins, a man who notices the tiniest detail and bothers to remark on it. He makes the quiet and mundane seem magnificent and precious. And you know what? It damn well is!

My favorite was the title poem.

I'm someone who sees those altered book "art" projects and wonders which books are okay to ruin in the name of art. (Reader's Digest Condensed Books are the only ones that come to my mind, as in my opinion, books AND soup should NE
Jan 01, 2009 Julia rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: not recommended
Shelves: poetry
I enjoyed Collins' book PICNIC, LIGHTNING, but this new one--while having a few strong lines--seems more self-indulgent than usual. There's almost a whining quality to it that bothered me. He's often compared to Frost, since he uses very accessible language and images, but Frost saw the "bigger picture" within and behind the world. Collins knows the "big picture"--the flow of time, life, death--but he constantly filters it through a personal lens clouded with his own fear, sarcasm, lost loves, a ...more
James Murphy
I don't remember Billy Collins showing a dark side. But Ballistics does throw a shadow. I'd guess he's experienced a personal setback. More than one poem here concerns death, one is entitled "Separation," and it's followed by "Despair" and "The Mortal Coil." But I've always thought his poetry a pleasure to read because of his wry perspectives and quirky humor. That's here, too, and those poems are among my favorites. In fact, the mood does brighten at the end of the book so that it ends sunnily ...more
Billy Collins does it again. His most recent collection of poems hits it out of the ballpark. Collins is witty and sardonic, he takes the mundane and transforms it into extraordinary. After reading his poems, I often find myself wanting to examine the inner recesses of his brain so that I can see the world at the angle he does.
In my humble opinion, Billy Collins is one of the great poets of our time. I confirmed this a few years back when Daniel and I had the absolute pleasure of hearing him r
I think for the most part we have all figured out where we stand on Billy Collins. His poems either work for you or they don't. I dearly love him. I've known others, people who have earned my respect and continue to to this day, that cannot stand his stuff. Too droll, they say; meekly funny, at best, and the "pondering the small things that reveal the large stuff" bit has been done to death. When I was younger I would stand my ground and shout myself hoarse defending the merits of Collins' work. ...more
In Ballistics, the reader will happily find the Billy Collins of his or her previous acquaintance: whimsical, thoughtful, and hauntingly eloquent. As a collection, the poems of Ballistics flow together nicely, but then, there's always something so clearly Collins about his work that I imagine this effect could be achieved with any grouping.

While I love poetry, I admit that I'm never quite sure how one should "review" a book of it. I tend to be introduced to poets by others and only then do I pu
Billy Collins used to be my hero. And maybe he still is. Maybe I've been tainted by reading some of the other reviews which said he's been recycling himself too much. He's overdone, redundant...

He does use the same symbolism and style often - it is the same death personified in On the Death of a Next-Door Neighbor as in My Number from a previous collection. He still uses a quote or the title of the poem to define it.

Someone on goodreads said he should branch out - that he's certainly capable. I
Suzanne Moore
These are the first poems I've read by this poet. I remember when his work was required reading among high schools. While working as a bookseller, years ago, his books were well sought after. Somehow I missed reading him myself until recently. I can see how his way of simply telling the feelings and observations found in everyday, but with wise and profound eyes ... both visually and spiritually make him so well loved. I liked the poem Adage best. It gave me a new understanding of love ...

... fr
Jonathan Stemberger
Billy Collin’s work does not carry the stereotypical connotation of contemporary poetry. Instead Collins takes simple everyday circumstances and thoughts, he then writes about them in a romantic caring context. Collins’ tone and language is eloquent yet down to earth, he carries the attitude of a mature soul. His poems contain unique imagery in the way that they are not confusing but captivating. His works do not contain techniques like crazy spacing, but he does he tools such as enjambment in a ...more
Austen to Zafón
I'm not sure if I liked this collection less than previous ones because Collins' style has become somewhat predictable for me, or if these poems really do lack the oomph of his earlier work. If this were the first book of his I had read, I might have been more startled by his word-play, his punchlines, and his easy grace with descriptions of everyday life. But I've read every book he's published, including his early Video Poems, and I'd like to see him push in a new direction rather than writing ...more
Boy oh boy this solipsist is going some hardcore navel-gazing. All I ask of poetry is that it make me want to write more poetry and here, all I can think to ask is 'is he dialing it in?' A bit too soft, white and normal for me.
As with all of Billy Collins' work, the poems are highly accessible by the "lay" reader while rewarding to the poetry fan who can see them in a different light.
Susan bookmark has gone straight back to the beginning, ready to start again.
In college I had a poetry writing professor who was famous by her own right, but the sister of a far more famous writer. Our assignment was to find a collection of poetry, read it, learn a bit about the writer, analyze the work, and then present our findings. I hopped down the street to the neighborhood indie book store, and plopped down on the floor in front of a relatively small poetry section.

One of those artsy fartsy booksellers interrupted me and asked if he could help me find something. I
This was an interesting and unusual read for me, since I usually stick to young adult poetry that has very different themes (identity, fitting in, finding love, etc). This book is different and the poems are all over the place but they all seem to be about very ordinary things that are just looked at in more detail. The poems "Tension," "The Early Years," and "Oh, My God!" are all about really simple everyday things but Collins makes you look at them differently, critically, to find new meaning ...more
So much said with so few words. So funny, so sad, so poignant, so...refreshingly, heartbreakingly real. I need to read everything he's written. Then read it again. And probably again.
You had me at I am an ant inside a blue bowl on the table of a cruel prince.
Don Nissen

One of many terrific poems in this collection >


by Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate 2001-2003

(The legendary Cang Jie was said to
have invented writing after observing the tracks of birds.)

A light snow last night,
and now the earth falls open to a fresh page.

A high wind is breaking up the clouds.
Children wait for the yellow bus in a huddle,

and under the feeder, some birds
are busy writing short stories,

poems, and letters to their mothers.
A crow is working on an editorial.

That chi
Grady Ormsby
Jan 17, 2015 Grady Ormsby rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
It’s not Ezra, Algernon, Rudyard, Ambrose, Edgar Allan nor Ralph Waldo. No high-blown, fancy poet’s name here. It’s plain old Billy Collins. Billy Collins might have been the shortstop on your high school baseball team or your newspaper delivery boy or the guy who changes the oil in your car. In Ballistics the poems are by Billy, not William Collins, plain, ordinary, everyday, easy for everyone to relate to. But don’t be misled by the down-to-earth nature of Collins’ subject matter and his clear ...more
Thank you, NYC Strand Bookstore, for actually stocking Billy Collins. Reading poetry has never felt so personal. Taking the train to Coney Island while reading about Paris and eating alone in Chinese restaurants and love and death and being up at 5am? Even better.

And thank you, NYC subways, for using Billy Collins quotes in your trains. They're kind of awesome. No better city to read Ballistics in than you.
Ballistics, Billy Collins

A companionable collection someone said (or something like that),
And he wasn't wrong
although he talked about himself too much.

Our paths crossed for a time.
We'd say hello, he'd tell me about himself,
and then I would go do people-stuff while he sat on the dresser and

And then we'd chat again
(he really needed to get out more)
but he had a good ear, a twinklesome eye
and was occasionally profound-
A good man to waste a Saturday with.

"Playing tennis without a net," Frost
Smart and funny poems. I shared "Tension" with my class of freshmen and they liked it too. Go to the library and read some Billy Collins, or better yet, just go here and read a few. It's just fun. Here's a short one for you:


Once, two spoons in bed,
now tined forks

across a granite table
and the knives they have hired.
Shawn Sorensen
True to form Collins stays. He's on a bench in a park or sitting by a window. Poet places. He'll lay out the scene, throw in some adroit metaphors, and end the poem quickly and casually, as if he wants to make sure not to offend. He wants to make the reader do the pondering, a device he utilizes very humanely. I found a lot of humor and wisdom between his lines.
Once again Billy Collins delivers a book of poetry that is made for a glass of wine and comfortable chair. I read cover to cover first day i bought it. I dog-eared about every third page, because they are so good you want to read them again. Damn guy is talented.
Billy Collins poetry feels effortless, but beneath the surface is always something stronger, more precise, calculated. Whenever I read Collins I find myself smiling, just near the end, when his effort pays off. Smiled a lot reading this book.
Billy can do no wrong in my book and proves himself worthy once again. He writes for the masses and whether or not you love poetry he will find his way into your mind.

Best taken read to you out loud by someone who loves Billy as much as you do.
Frank Jude
I don't read a lot of poetry. I've not read much of it since school (both high school and college) though I sometimes wish I did. Billy Collins needs no introduction. I'm sure there are plenty of poetry snobs who look down on his work and those of us who like it (and there are plenty of us, for sure). The thing about his work that I find appealing is his sometimes sardonic, but always refreshing perspective on the mundane. His themes of impermanence, the slightly askew view of things in general ...more
I quite like a number of his lines, like

"And I should mention the light/which falls through the big windows this time of day/italicizing everything it touches--"

among others, though I didn't really feel caught up in many of the poems as a whole.

Though I thoroughly enjoyed his engagement with mythology and his musings on language, I certainly could have done without his (frankly) whiny moments about his fellow poets: this cropped up a few times and never felt like anything other than high school
Dr. Wells
I always enjoy reading Billy Collins. It's even better, however, to hear him read his work. I've seen him twice, once in Pittsburgh. As I was reading "The Fish," toward the end of this volume, I was wondering if the description of a fish dinner in Pittsburgh was on the occasion of the reading I saw. I enjoy Collins more when I imagine his reading voice. Here's a good video of him reading at the 2009 annual meeting of the National Writing Project:
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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.
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“And I should mention the light
which falls through the big windows this time of day
italicizing everything it touches...”
More quotes…