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Nine Horses

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  4,432 ratings  ·  291 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 activiti ...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published October 14th 2003 by Random House Trade (first published 2002)
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Average rating 4.18  · 
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 ·  4,432 ratings  ·  291 reviews

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Aug 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-of-2019, poetry
Another wonderful collection by a poet who is becoming a favorite of mine. "Velocity", "Paris" and "Obituaries" were probably my favorites. Collins has the ability to highlight the ordinary moments in life and to find a sort of quiet magic in them. Highly recommended!

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Feb 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry-drama
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
Apr 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing

I cannot see you a thousand miles from here,
but I can hear you
whenever you cough in your bedroom
or when you set down
your wineglass on a granite counter.
This afternoon
I even heard scissors moving
at the tips of your hair
and the dark snips falling
onto a marble floor.
I keep the jazz
on the radio turned off.
I walk across the floor softly,
eyes closed,
the windows in the house shut tight.
I hear a motor on the road in front,
a plane humming overhead,
someone hammering,
then there is nothing
David Barbero
Dec 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing

"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
Not bad. Some poems I knew already, like "The Country," about mice (BC likes mice) starting a house fire, and "Litany," a list poem that states what the object of the speaker's poem is and isn't, followed by what the speaker himself is and isn't.

Includes many poems about places BC has traveled, such as Europe and Bermuda and Istanbul. Most surprisingly, the reader is also treated to poems about death. I think I saw a video somewhere where the Billy said all poets have to get them out of their sy
MacKenzie Alexander
Collins sings right to my heart. He makes me grateful for mortality by pointing out bars of soap and roadkill. Who would have thought the way to keep moving forward would be a “miniature orange tree” or stanzas dedicated to single stalks of asparagus?
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
I'm not a particular fan of poetry, but Billy Collins' work will have to be an exception. He manages to take subjects from the mundane trivialities of day-to-day life to the philosophical and deep realities of existence and mortality and somehow make them work together with equal ease. His thoughtful observations and insights on life and death give the reader a side-door into topics that in a factual discussion might otherwise make them uncomfortable. He manages a wonderful mix of sobriety and h ...more
Jul 31, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, 2018-reads
Why should I have complicated feelings about a poet's work that is simple, clear, and precise? In a way, Billy Collins' poems reminds me of Mary Oliver (my favorite poet of all time) and Robert Frost in terms of his writing style and his ability to see the extraordinary in the ordinary and everyday. Yet I rarely felt any emotional connection to his work, and the "wow" moments from NINE HORSES were more subtle compared to "wow" moments in other poetry books I've read. I'm not sure how else to des ...more
Apr 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, read-in-2013
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
Jul 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 30, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  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. ...more
John Curtis
May 16, 2010 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Jul 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
Matthew Huff
Oct 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Marvelous. Collins' ability to transform a seemingly mundane detail into a poetic cosmos is simply excellent. He's got a lot of winners in this collection. ...more
Emily Polson
Jan 10, 2021 added it
Shelves: poetry
I read a lot of sad poetry dealing with heavy topics, so I picked this up because I wanted to read a collection that was mostly happy, clever, and playful for once, with only occasional moments of melancholy. Billy Collins delivered. Here were some of my favorite poems from the collection:

-The Return of the Key
-By a Swimming Pool Outside Siracusa
-Death in New Orleans, a Romance
-To My Patron
-Writing in the Afterlife
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Maybe its me, but I felt like a large number of these poems were meditations on mortality.

And then there is "Litany," which begins with a quote from one Jacques Crickillon: "You are the bread and the knife, the crystal goblet and the wine," but then goes on to exclaim "You are not the pine-scented air. There is no way you are the pine-scented air."

And it seems that the extremely ugly cover is actually a piece of art he has up in his dining room. To each his own.
Mar 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
The first half is almost perfect. I had never read anything by Collins before, and I was so delighted by these poems, and their funny little surprises (a poem about Richardson's Clarissa?!). But the second half was not nearly as strong -- some terrific poems, but quite a few others that were cutesy, overly amused with their own cleverness, or just trite. I went back to the beginning, wondering if I'd been wrong, but nope, still fantastic. So it's uneven. But when it's good, it is SO good. ...more
Tim Mountain
Feb 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Billy Collins is one of the best to ever do it, and Nine Horses is the best he ever did. Highlights are “Today,” “Litany,” “Poetry,” and “Tipping Point.”
Kristy K
Jan 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, 2017
3.5 Stars
Sonia Jarmula
Oct 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Now this is the kind of poetry that should be taught in schools.
Nov 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Gabriel Clarke
I don't know quite how to respond to this. I don't resent the fact that Collins leads a wonderful, charmed life, flitting from Bermuda to Paris to the club car on the New York- Niagara Falls line. I like the directness and the clearly hard-won effects of his a-bit-like-classical-Chinese-poetry-translations voice. But I want a poem to challenge me to step outside my own world and look at it , a bit startled perhaps, through a complicating or contradictory lens. At the very least, I want it to mak ...more
Jan 10, 2011 rated it it was ok
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 11, 2015 rated it liked it
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
Jan 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
The holidays and the end of 2016 in general took a real bite out of me, so I thought some light poetry might help soothe my spirit. This is really accessible poetry that celebrates ordinary pleasures, like the sun on your face, or setting a bird free that somehow got trapped in your living room. It's not revolutionary stuff, but it was very nice reading a little every day when I got home from work and before bed. It reminded me how much I like poetry and how certain types of poetry do indeed hav ...more
Oct 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult
I loved dipping into this poetry book and reading a few poems a day. Billy Collins has such a great sense of humor. Here's one that made me chuckle:

No Time

In a rush this weekday morning,
I tap the horn as I speed past the cemetery
where my parents are buried
side by side under a smooth slab of granite.

Then, all day long, I think of him rising up
to give me that look
of knowing disapproval
while my mother calmly tells him to lie back down.
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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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