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The Art of Drowning

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  2,281 ratings  ·  127 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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Average rating 4.25  · 
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 ·  2,281 ratings  ·  127 reviews

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Oct 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: wax-poetic
If you believe in the mindset that the best poetry arises from suffering, then this might not be the collection for you.

Mr. Collins may be a poet, but he's certainly not a starving poet, nor much of a suffering one, either. . . (unless you view all humans as suffering, which has been suggested in urban legends for several millennia now).

We all experience life differently, and we all suffer by existing, but Billy Collins just suffers with more. . . sophistication. . . what with his lamb shanks, h
Connie G
Jun 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Billy Collins was the Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003. He writes his poems in free verse. Most of Collins' work is about everyday things so they are accessible to almost everyone. He has a good sense of humor, and many of his poems are playful and fun. 3.5 stars. ...more
Oct 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
After listening to Billy's Facebook broadcasts for months, I decided I needed all of his poetry books, so I just ordered this one. I've read many of the poems in other collections, but I love having it.

Just read the last few poems last night - I've been reading a few a night until I finished, which has been an extremely excellent way of ending my day - and love all of it, but especially "Days," "Budapest," and "On Turning Ten."
Dec 08, 2012 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
Chris Shank
May 23, 2012 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
Mar 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I like everything this guy writes. Thoughtful and a bit funny at times. What's not to like? ...more
Nov 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
I loved some of the poems, some I just loved a few lines, and a couple I didn’t really like. But in the whole, this was a great book of poetry. My favorites are the ones that have a sly wit to them but also capture the mundane perfectly. I like many of the lists, but sometimes they take away from the rest of the poem. Standouts for me were Piano Lessons, Pinup, Man in Space, Reading in a Hammock, Osso Bucco, and Water Table.
Joanne Merriam
Nov 03, 2011 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
Nolan Alber
Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A rating system seems especially arbitrary for poetry.
rachel selene
Nov 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
But it is hard to speak of these things
how the voices of light enter the body
and begin to recite their stories
how the earth holds us painfully against
its breast made of of humus and brambles
how we who will soon be gone
regard the entities that continue to return
greener than ever

my favorites: thesaurus, keats’s handwriting, the first dream, man in space
Sep 08, 2015 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 i
Oct 18, 2012 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 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
Jul 30, 2008 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
Aug 27, 2013 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. ...more
Jun 04, 2013 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.....
Dec 09, 2008 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.
Jun 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
Billy Collins writes good, solid, unashamed, every day poetry.
Jan 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
One of my favorite of Collins'. Quiet, melancholic, but still fun in his way. ...more
Mar 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed reading this book very much and making notes on the pages as Billy himself encourages as a sort of conversation with the poet. In fact, I enjoyed reading this book so much, I enrolled in Billy Collin's online Master Class. I love the way Billy draws the reader into his home or environment, how he shares with the reader so that the experiences feel immediate and intimate. I also like the way he shifts from ordinary to the universal with a kind of magnificent reverence. ...more
Payne Yance
May 16, 2021 rated it liked it
You know some clouds are too simple, or confusing and they just float away, fading into nothingness? Some poems were like that. Some others were pleasant, for their clouds were still and beautiful. They stayed, letting me float close as possible, feeling the words swim on my skin.

Aimless Love and The Whale Day were better ones but they were more recent meanwhile this is from 90s. Decent but less favorable poems were found.
Aug 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Thanks once again to the Forbes Library for running the summer reading passport. One of the categories was to read a book in a genre that you do not normally read. I chose this wonderful collection of poetry to satisfy this challenge. Collins captures the essential beauty inherent in the commonplace through his accessible and lovely words.
Sep 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Maybe it's because it's my first foray into the realm of poetry but I found this collection to be very special (special in the way that you value a hand made gift from a friend who knows you inside and out). Billy Collins writes in such a readily accessible way, I couldn't help but fall in love with his work. ...more
Dec 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, poetry
This is the first Billy Collins poetry I've read, and I really enjoyed it. It felt like he was taking me for a walk through a museum - how he could take a single image and create a poem out of it. It often felt like a dance as well, from the silly to the serious. I enjoyed his playfulness. I hope I happen upon more of his writing. ...more
Billy Collins is so reliable. Again I enjoyed his word play.
A number of rememberable poems.
‘Cheers’ v5, ' laziness was the mother of astronomy'
‘Thesaurus’ – ‘It could be the name of a prehistoric beast …’
‘On Turning Ten’ – ‘Piano Lessons’ v5, ‘my left hand would rather be jingling the change ...’
A joy to read anywhere.
Jun 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Another superb collection of poems -- most of them readable and understandable. Some of them absolutely change how I think...and I will use for teaching purposes. Check out: Biography of a Cloud; Cheers; or End of the World.
Apr 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I love the poetry of Billy Collins. It is so understandable, and inviting. The simplicity is what makes it beautiful. Often funny and touching at the same time. My favorites from this book are Thesaurus, Fiftieth Birthday Eve, Workshop and The Invention of the Saxophone.
Joel Fry
Apr 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Billy collins does extraordinary things with the ordinary. He releases the reader from the pain of living for brief moments by showing us the everlasting surface and depth of the world. I think of Sheep's Head Hill often, and my mind rests in its deepest place. ...more
Dec 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It’s been a while since I’ve read a book of poetry, and this was a good one to start up again with. It conversational and charming and funny and deep. Not all of the poems ate winners, but a great many are.
Rachel Reiff
Mar 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I didn't like poetry until I read Billy Collins. Profoundly simple, touching, funny. ...more
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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

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His Favorite Works of Poetry: The former poet laureate and Goodreads Choice Best Poetry Finalist for the collection Aimless Love offers his top five.
15 likes · 2 comments
“But tomorrow, dawn will come the way I picture her,
barefoot and disheveled, standing outside my window
in one of the fragile cotton dresses of the poor.
She will look in at me with her thin arms extended,
offering a handful of birdsong and a small cup of light.”
“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…