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The Art of Drowning

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  2,071 Ratings  ·  109 Reviews
Billy Collins's poetry has been described by Gerald Stern as "heartbreakingly beautiful." Annie Proulx admits, "I have never before felt possessive about a poet, but I am fiercely glad that Billy Collins is ours." The "New York Times calls him simply "the real thing." Over the past decade, Collins has garnered critical acclaim and broad popular appeal. To celebrate his yea ...more
Paperback, 95 pages
Published 1995 by University of Pittsburgh Press
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AnandaTashie
Dec 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Melanie
Nov 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Chris
May 23, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Joanne Merriam
Nov 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
rachel selene
Nov 12, 2017 rated it liked it
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
Nolan Alber
A rating system seems especially arbitrary for poetry.
KarmA1966
Sep 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 its
...more
Beth
Oct 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Florence
Aug 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Erik
Jul 30, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Dave
Aug 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Cindy
Jun 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
.....how 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.....
Joshua
Dec 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Justin
Jun 15, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Billy Collins writes good, solid, unashamed, every day poetry.
Kendall
Jan 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite of Collins'. Quiet, melancholic, but still fun in his way.
Alan
Aug 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jamie Archer
Dec 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, 2017
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.
Matt
Sep 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Reed
Jun 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Rachel Reiff
I didn't like poetry until I read Billy Collins. Profoundly simple, touching, funny.
Sara Whear
Jul 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
4.5 stars. Love Billy Collins.
Scott Lee
Oct 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really loved reading this book. I've encountered Collins before, but never at volume length, and generally only in the form of a single poem: "Introduction to Poetry." This is a wonderful verse, playful, joyful, many of the super specific emotional things that poetry does better than any other form of literature, but anything read too many times....

This volume is full of beautiful poetry. There's a sax/jazz motif that runs through several poems at the end that I particularly enjoyed--although
...more
Stephen Yoder
Feb 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Billy is such a funny man with an eye toward what has not yet been said already. A poet's eye is necessary these days. The poem that, to me, describes a joyous loving Gollum swimming in the underground water table as he sings is my favorite.
A.M.
Sep 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I feel I must preface this review with a brief description of how I came to read this book at this particular moment in time. I had actually embarked on reading a different collection of poetry by some modern female poet named on an NPR must-read list that I found so utterly grotesque, depraved and pretentious that I threw it aside after only eight poems. In my entire 45 years, I have never not finished a collection of poetry out of pure disgust for the poems - until last evening.

To reclaim my m
...more
Christina Rau
Jan 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Billy Collins has magical powers. He can take any simple idea and make it poetic. He can make me care about a poem in which the speaker mentions "my wife" or a horse. He can create a scene of the everyday, like one during which a writer wakes up, puts on a pair of slippers, goes to a desk, and writes, and I very much care about the writer getting up, putting on slippers, going to a desk, and writing. He's relatable. That's what his Poetry 180 is all about, finding relatable poems. Only a relatab ...more
Writer's Relief
Distinguished Professor and former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins has collected some of his best work in his poetry collection THE ART OF DROWNING.

From the opening piece, “Dear Reader,” Collins welcomes you to join him in experiencing the fleetingness of humanity and the short yet deep connection he imagines making with his readers. He expresses the beauty found in life through snapshots of brief yet meaningful moments that have captured his attention. With ideas ranging from the warmth a goo
...more
Bill Keefe
Mar 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lesson in poetry, preferences, and predilections.

I was surprised to have enjoyed this book so much. I had once listened to Billy Collins on tape and thought him more of a comedian than a poet. How untrue. How poorly this describes him and his work - this work at least.

Yes, Billy Collins is funny. And yes, he'll write a poem about the painting of a fish on his wall. But he writes to your heart. He writes to your head and to your appreciation of the world you live in. He seems to find and remind
...more
Joe
Dec 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Collins' poetry has always been enjoyable reading for me. His obsession with the mundane, accessible style, and elegant re-framing of the familiar makes his poems relatable and evocative. This collection is pretty consistent throughout 4 sections. Collins focuses on observation of the everyday, often deriving deeper meaning from the monotonous/ubiquitous elements of daily experience after exploratory contemplation. His attention to "the immediate" would be zen-like if it weren't so wistfully nos ...more
Alison O'Leary
May 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
I was looking for some books to take on vacation when I ran across Collins' poetry. Just flipping through the pages while standing in the library stacks I knew I had hit on the right author, but which book? I've been trying to read everything Collins writes because it's all amazing (how descriptive, huh?). I found myself reading portions out loud to my partner as we sat on the deck of his Vermont cabin in solitude. He's not a poetry fan but I had to impress upon him why Collins is such a master ...more
Kevin Fanning
Really wanted to like this--I love the way he structures his poems, the rhythms of the lines. They have this easy lilt to them that's just about perfect. But I couldn't get into the actual content of the poems! I kept waiting for an ending, a line, a stanza that would come at my unexpectedly, knock me on my ear, but it never happened. I wanted to be surprised, I wanted to suddenly learn that the subject matter wasn't really the subject matter, but that was not the case here. For me the poems wer ...more
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poetry 3 10 Aug 03, 2012 10:40PM  
Poetry Readers Ch...: The Art of Drowning 2 9 Jan 11, 2012 09:32AM  
  • Without: Poems
  • Otherwise: New and Selected Poems
  • Flying At Night: Poems 1965-1985
  • Say Uncle
  • What Narcissism Means to Me
  • New and Selected Poems, 1975-1995
  • New and Selected Poems
  • Good Poems for Hard Times
  • Different Hours
  • Behind My Eyes [With CD]
  • Strike Sparks: Selected Poems, 1980-2002
438
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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“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.”
3 likes
“On Turning Ten"

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I'm coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light--
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.”
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