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Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems

4.24  ·  Rating Details ·  10,826 Ratings  ·  549 Reviews
Sailing Alone Around the Room, by America’s Poet Laureate, Billy Collins, contains both new poems and a generous gathering from his earlier collections The Apple That Astonished Paris, Questions About Angels, The Art of Drowning, and Picnic, Lightning. These poems show Collins at his best, performing the kinds of distinctive poetic maneuvers that have delighted and fascina ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published September 17th 2002 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 2001)
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Cory Carwile "On Turning Ten"

I fills me with nostalgia for my youth, and also reminds that the bitterness of growing older is relative -- a matter of perspective.…more
"On Turning Ten"

I fills me with nostalgia for my youth, and also reminds that the bitterness of growing older is relative -- a matter of perspective. It makes me smile and feel sad at the same time.(less)

Community Reviews

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Jun 08, 2012 Arah-Lynda rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Arah-Lynda by: s.penkevich
Age vitam plenissime

Take a walk in the park
perhaps of an evening,
moonlight dancing lightly
through the swaying branches of the willow,
reflected off the water,
where the heron feeds,
Illuminating our path.

There is a slight breeze
a welcome silence
later we will have a fire
and listen to the music of the night.

I am humbled to remember that poetry is after all everywhere. It envelopes us. It is in the words we read and those we speak to each other.
It is in the very air I breathe, deep and slow.

I love
Jun 07, 2012 s.penkevich rated it it was amazing
Recommended to s.penkevich by: Stephen M
Shelves: poetry, poet_laureate
I want the scissors to be sharp
and the table perfectly level
when you cut me out of my life
and paste me in the book you always carry.

Billy Collins, the American Poet Laureate from 2001-2003, is a poet whom you really always keep with you. The man is a pure shot of brilliance; his serene and seemingly effortless prose will seduce your intellect and make sweet, playful love to your soul. This particular collection serves as an early ‘best of’ and would make a perfect introduction to Collins. If y
D. Pow
Feb 10, 2010 D. Pow rated it did not like it
Shelves: poetry
I am a book addict. I own thousands of them. They fill most rooms of my house, many closets, my garage. They are stacked high by my bedside, on the hamper in the upstairs bathroom, in the backseat of my car. I take a book with me most places I go. I buy books all the time but I have gotten a little less self-indulgent in my buying habits; I almost never buy hardback and I never ever buy full-price. Probably the next lesson I should learn in my book buying habits is never buy while partially or f ...more
Stephen M
May 02, 2012 Stephen M rated it it was amazing
I've already begun posting Billy Collins' poetry around my apartment.

In front of my bed:


On the refrigerator:


The book has inspired a couple poems.


After spending upward of a few hours
reading the poetry of Billy Collins,
his soft, monotone voice has begun
narrating my life.

When I walk to the bathroom,
his voice murmurs behind the splash in the toilet:

"I think of how many times I've risen
to use the bathroom and how the
noise of urine hitting the bowl of water
sounds like a strange symphony of busy
Jul 09, 2016 7jane rated it really liked it
A quick read, read in two days, yet I tried my best to rush it, because this was good. A collection of poems from earlier collections with new batch added at the end, this book has poems of various moods, some of which may appear in the same poem, changing the feeling at some point(s).

There's many with everyday-life feel in them, yet some go beyond and turn things around deliciously. They're often funny too; I didn't find anything too-heavy within.

The author doesn't write his poems too heavily-l
Jun 19, 2012 Steve rated it really liked it
I don’t think Billy gives a rat’s ass that I’m a philistine; that I’m unschooled in the appreciation of fine arts; that I can’t even fake knowing jack about poetry. He writes for guys like me, too. In fact, it might be kind of his thing. (My friend Scott, who does know poetry, commented just today that Collins has a reputation for being less serious. Evidently, the hegemons of verse took exception when he was named Poet Laureate and called for their own choice.) But he won me over on the very fi ...more
Megan Baxter
Jun 15, 2012 Megan Baxter rated it it was amazing
I know nothing about poetry. A bad experience in my first-year World Literature class sent me running screaming from the English Department. This doesn't mean I don't like poetry, just that I know little about it, or how to find good poetry.

But when I read s.penkevich's great review of Sailing Alone Around the Room, the poems he posted as part of that caught my attention right away, and I ordered the book from the library.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goo
Mar 06, 2012 Ted rated it it was amazing
new review from a second read

Billy Collins was born in Manhattan in 1941, received a BA degree from Holy Cross (Worchester MA) in 1963, and attended the University of California, Riverside, earning MA and PhD degrees in Romantic Poetry. He joined the faculty of Lehman College in the Bronx in 1968 and taught there for over thirty years.

Collins served as Poet Laureate of the U.S. from 2001 to 2003. During his term Collins created a program called Poetry 180
May 14, 2014 rahul rated it it was amazing
Recommended to rahul by: Nidhi Singh
Shelves: favorites, poetry
last night my soul woke up
Thirsty, I call it
looking for something that I had
Missed, so I have named my memories

a memory came from the past
and led me forward
giving shore to my lost
soul,within the pages of...
Sailing Alone Around the Room

A couple of poems I drank then.
Savored another before breakfast.
One awaits me once
I am done with this review.

Meanwhile, for better use of words.
Please relish this.

Winter Syntax

A sentence starts out like a lone traveler
heading into a blizzard at midnight,
tilting i
Apr 20, 2013 Cheryl rated it it was amazing
”I walk through the house reciting it and leave its letters falling through the air of every room.”

Whenever I read Billy Collins’ poems, I want to hand them out to people nearby, as if they are small gifts, from him to all of us. They so perfectly exist within their words that they seem almost self-formed, and Billy Collins is merely their handler who has unwrapped them or undressed them and showed us their essence.
The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by th
Nidhi Singh
May 13, 2014 Nidhi Singh rated it it was amazing
This is one the best books I have ever read. Almost every poem in this collection is wonderful. A book I would want to read again and again. This might not be the best poem from this collection but it has that ability to persist in my memory which is not very good with poetry.

Introduction to Poetry

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and fe
May 21, 2007 Anne rated it really liked it
I just really enjoy Billy Collins'dry wit and way with words. But here is my favorite Billy Collins poem (not, alas, included in this book, but it will give you a nice taste of his work).

the lanyard

The other day as I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room
bouncing from typewriter to piano
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
I found myself in the "L" section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word, Lanyard.
No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send
Stacy Bender
the lanyard

The other day as I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room
bouncing from typewriter to piano
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
I found myself in the "L" section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word, Lanyard.
No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one more suddenly into the past.
A past where I sat at a workbench
at a camp by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid thin plastic strips into a lanyard.
A gift for my mother.
Aug 24, 2008 Jean rated it it was ok
I gave this book three separate sittings and though I did enjoy reading it, I could not shake the feeling that Collins is a bit too straightforward. I understand his widespread appeal - he makes poetry manageable, accessible, easy - but I think he does so at some expense. Critics quoted in the front of the book described his "irresistable charm" - but I think that a great deal of that charm is not so much the sublimeness of his poems, but the fact that nearly every person on earth - secretly, de ...more
Oct 18, 2015 Northpapers rated it really liked it
"I am wondering what became of all those tall abstractions
that used to pose, robed and statuesque, in paintings
and parade about on the pages of the Renaissance
displaying their capital letters like license plates."

- from "The Death of Allegory"

Billy Collins is the master jazz flute player of poetry. His touch is so exquisitely light, his sound so modest and calm, that you can miss the depth of what he's doing.

My friend Adam Fites sent this collection to me for Christmas. I had read Nine Horses in
Jun 18, 2016 sanny rated it it was amazing
The book is a gift that keeps on giving. Billy Collins' observations and musings sound like they come from Dumbledore, complete with the twinkle in his eye. I read these aloud, by the way, the rhythms make it impossible not to.
Dec 05, 2009 Brendan rated it really liked it
My philosophically minded friends and I have a debate about Billy Collins' poetry. They insist that the attempt to chronicle the everyday in a meaningful way can be done in a deeper, more profound manner. They find Collins lacking in this way. This is probably true, but not Collins' main point, I think.
Still, I think, after rereading this book, that Collins becomes more profound with time. I am still unsure if this is my projection into the poem because I *want* these poems to be more profound o
Sep 22, 2007 Trish rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who don't like poetry
Billy Collins is the perfect poet for people who don't really care for poetry. He writes little stories in free verse that are accessible and often very funny. This is a collection of, as the title says, new and old poems. Some of my favorites are: Marginalia where the poet ponders the kinship he feels with people who write in the margin of books; Another Reason Why I Don't Keep a Gun in the House where the poet struggles with his ire at the neighbor's barking dog, and Passengers, his observatio ...more
Nov 19, 2008 Melody rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
I have to say that I glaze over at most poetry. I always feel that I need to "tie the poem to a chair with rope and torture a confession out of it". But perhaps this book helped me "walk inside the poem's room and feel the walls for a light switch". Although I'll still do that with the hose for beating behind my back.
Aug 31, 2012 Aad added it
Shelves: poetry

---The History Teacher---

Trying to protect his students’ innocence
he told them the Ice Age was really just
the Chilly Age, a period of a million years
when everyone had to wear sweaters.

And the Stone Age became the Gravel Age,
named after the long driveways of the time.

The Spanish Inquisition was nothing more
than an outbreak of questions such as
“How far is it from here to Madrid?”
“What do you call the matador’s hat?”

The War of the Roses took place in a garden,
and the Enola Gay dropped one tiny atom
Nov 01, 2013 Jessica rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I don't like poetry. I mean, I like this poem, and that poem. The Lady of Shalott, The Raven, you know, sort of the "usual suspects" of poetry. But I never actively seek out poetry. I don't like to curl up with a good book of poems on a rainy day. I don't "get" a lot of it, and I'm irritated by many of the modern poets. But my sister, who is an English teacher, introduced me to Billy Collins' poetry a few years ago, and I was hooked. Funny, deceptively simple, and yet tender and insightful at th ...more
Sep 15, 2011 Les rated it it was amazing
I love Billy Collins' poems. I know he is lauded as being accessible. He is. Mostly though he is clever and downright hilarious at times. As all good poets he twists words and ideas just enough to make you see the world differently. His writing is warm and his subjects are often everyday thoughts and ideas--nothing esoteric here. Collins'poetry makes me want to read more poetry . . . and not just his.

Highlights are numerous in this collection, but include:

Plight of the Troubadour
Winter Syntax
Feb 17, 2008 Matt rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetic-rapture
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 18, 2013 Carmen rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fans of modern poetry
Very good and satisfying book of poetry. Excellent.
Feb 12, 2017 Allison rated it really liked it
Shelves: classic-to-be, poetry
I fear these poems came to me at the wrong time, for objectively I can tell that they are all beautiful works and that there is very, very good reason why Collins was our poet laureate. But the thing is that this particular collection is full of a lot of poems about poems, and... well. Were it that I lived in a time where I was able to connect with poems that commented about poems instead of yearning for solace in art by connecting to experience. Billy Collins is many things, but he is not here ...more
Oct 27, 2009 Krzysztof rated it did not like it
Shelves: poetry, worst, 2009, reviewed
I was just going through old books to donate and came across this. I thought, "Oh, this turd's definitely getting itself donated." I remembered Collins as being proudly dull, writing almost exclusively about writing poems, and trying to trick you into thinking that every rudimentary action was a profound moment.

As I flipped through the soon-to-be-donated book, hoping to find a lost hundred, a girl's phone number, or something as good/forgotten as the poetry was bad/forgotten, I found a series o
Peycho Kanev
Aug 07, 2013 Peycho Kanev rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Пеша с Били Колинс

Първата книга на Били Колинс, която прочетох в оригинал, се казва „Изкуството на давене” (1995). Не бях чувал името му преди това. Помня как затворих последната страница и след десет минути отново отворих на първата - и започнах пак. Въпросът, който изплува в съзнанието ми, беше: „На кого, на кого ми напомня?”. Тогава не успях да си отговоря. Няколко години по-късно получих отговор от самия автор. Каза ми: „Сигурно ти напомня на Били Колинс...”
През 2001 г. Били Колинс е избран
May 15, 2015 Jacquelyn rated it it was ok
Shelves: nook
Billy Collins makes poetry accessible. He writes in the vernacular, doesn't use many fancy words, doesn't often use classic forms or rhyming, and writes about the normal day-to-day stuff of everybody's lives. The embodiment of "pop" poetry: the masses love him, even if they don't normally like poetry.

Which I have to give him credit for. When Harry Potter came out and people were crying WITCHCRAFT, one of the arguments was "Well, at least kids are reading SOMETHING, and if they read SOMETHING, t
Katherine Cowley
May 06, 2015 Katherine Cowley rated it it was amazing
Billy Collins has been called a "major minor" poet, and I must admit, I hadn't heard of him before my friend brought one of his poems to poetry night this past December. The same friend chose this poetry collection for our April meeting of book group, and I'm so glad she did.

Billy Collins' poems are delightful, accessible, funny, yet deep. His commentary is never biting, his criticism always revelatory. He paints things with words. He doesn't use set forms, unless he is mocking the set form.

Apr 25, 2009 Punk rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Poetry. Selected poems from The Apple That Astonished Paris; Questions About Angels; The Art of Drowning; Picnic, Lightning; and twenty additional new poems.

Collins is one of my favorite poets. I like his sense of humor, the way he can effortlessly draw a metaphor out, or teasingly deconstruct a poetic form. His poems are casual, with simple language, and they can be irreverent and playful, but he doesn't shy away from emotion. In the last pages of this collection, several of the poems are about
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Madison Mega-Mara...: #17 Sailing Around the Room (New and Selected Poems) 1 2 Feb 28, 2015 11:23AM  
  • Delights and Shadows
  • What Narcissism Means to Me
  • Good Poems
  • Fuel
  • Otherwise: New and Selected Poems
  • New and Selected Poems, Vol. 2
  • Strike Sparks: Selected Poems, 1980-2002
  • Without: Poems
  • The Voice at 3:00 A.M.: Selected Late and New Poems
  • Rose
  • Given Sugar, Given Salt
  • The Shadow of Sirius
  • Say Uncle
  • The Collected Poems
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...

Share This Book

“Vade Mecum

I want the scissors to be sharp
and the table perfectly level
when you cut me out of my life
and paste me in that book you always carry.”
“But some nights, I must tell you,
I go down there after everyone has fallen asleep.
I swim back and forth in the echoing blackness.
I sing a love song as well as I can,
lost for a while in the home of the rain. ”
More quotes…