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Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  13,103 ratings  ·  722 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, 172 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)

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Jun 08, 2012 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 lo
D. Pow
Feb 10, 2010 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
Jun 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to s.penkevich by: Stephen M
Shelves: poet_laureate, poetry
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
Stephen M
May 02, 2012 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
Mar 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Walking Across the Atlantic

I wait for the holiday crowd to clear the beach
before stepping onto the first wave.

Soon I am walking across the Atlantic
thinking about Spain,
checking for whales, waterspouts.

I feel the water holding up my shifting weight.
Tonight I will sleep on its rocking surface.

But for now I try to imagine what
this must look like to the fish below,
the bottoms of my feet appearing, disappearing.

Collins in 2015

Billy Collins was born in Manhattan in 1941, received a BA degree from Holy
Jul 09, 2016 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 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
Sep 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, best-of-2019
Another wonderful collection by Billy Collins! My favorite poems in this book (though liked most of them) are "Student of the Clouds", "Nostalgia", "The Dead" and "Candle Hat". Looking forward to reading more by this author!

Find more reviews and bookish fun at
Megan Baxter
Jun 15, 2012 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
Oct 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
You may already know that my enjoyment with much of Collins’ poetry is immense.
To quote myself: “Collins elevates the commonplace and calls our attention to the details of life. He "rescues" these "from the millions that rush out of sight." For me, that is a very special gift.”
In this collection, there are many gems of observation but also some consideration of the work process of the poet. I didn’t mind either focus.

I wanted this review to include what I
May 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to rahul by: Nidhi Singh
Shelves: poetry, favorites
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,
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Jun 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by:
Shelves: read2017, poetry
I have heard the poet Billy Collins read his own work frequently enough that when I read his poems now, I hear them in his voice. This collection takes some poems from previous collections (some I had read already, and one I had read the same day from a collection of various poets - The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, and Joy) and sprinkles in a few new poems.

I was surprised by how many of the poems were about the writing and teaching of poetry itself, but perhaps that is an indication of
Apr 20, 2013 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
Amy (Other Amy)
We locate an adjective for the weather.
We announce that we are having a wonderful time.
We express the wish that you were here

and hide the wish that we were where you are,
walking back from the mailbox, your head lowered
as you read and turn the thin message in your hands.

A slice of this place, a length of white beach,
a piazza or carved spires of a cathedral
will pierce the familiar place where you remain,

and you will toss on the table this reversible display:
a few square inches of where we have str
Nidhi Singh
May 13, 2014 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 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
Aug 24, 2008 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
Nellie Mitchell
Jan 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Thanks for letting me borrow this Constance. I have lots of new favorite poems marked in this book. I now want to read all the charming wit that is Billy Collins.
Jul 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very refreshing to read.
Billy Collins has a unique view of the world and its nice to immerse yourself in his poetry to open your mind up.
Highly recommend.
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.
Nov 12, 2019 rated it really liked it

I might as well begin by saying how much I like the title.
from the poem Workshop p65

And what better company for one's solitary journeys than Billy Collins with his tender resignation, wild humour, and the ability to make friends with the absurd. Perhaps because he is an American, even though he served as Poet Laureate for the USA for the 2001-2002 term, I only recently discovered his work in an anthology and was impressed with his illustrious backlist. This man has been a working poet for most
Oct 18, 2015 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 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. ...more
Dec 05, 2009 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 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 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
After reading two collections of Collins's poetry prior to this, I thought I had read the best poems. This collection showed me that I was wrong, not only by being even better than the collections I'd read, but also by being the cleverest, wittiest and sublimest poetry collection ever. The poems within cover a wide range of themes with numerous poetic forms, genres, styles and concepts employed. Truly amazing and worth a read! Highly recommended to each and every poetry enthusiasts. ...more
Nov 19, 2008 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. ...more
Nov 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fans of modern poetry
Very good and satisfying book of poetry. Excellent.
Nov 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I love Billy Collins' poetry and this book didn't disappoint. ...more
Nov 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
Billy Collins has always been one of my favourite poets for his minimalist style, clever turns of wit, and thoughtful concepts. And so, I'm happy to report that this collection has not failed to succeed the others in making me laugh, think, and cry. ...more
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Madison Mega-Mara...: #17 Sailing Around the Room (New and Selected Poems) 1 3 Feb 28, 2015 11:23AM  

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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.
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“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…