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Horoscopes for the Dead

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  3,551 ratings  ·  375 reviews
Billy Collins is widely acknowledged as a prominent player at the table of modern American poetry. And in this new collection, Horoscopes for the Dead, the verbal gifts that earned him the title “America’s most popular poet” are on full display. The poems here cover the usual but everlasting themes of love and loss, life and death, youth and aging, solitude and union. With ...more
Hardcover, 103 pages
Published April 5th 2011 by Random House (first published 2011)
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4.04  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,551 ratings  ·  375 reviews

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In the glass half-full or half-empty department, I give you Billy Collins. What's maddening is how easy he makes it look -- the pedestrian topics, the casual voice, the sardonic wit. Sometimes the mix makes for magic. Sometimes it passes muster only because of the poet's name. This collection gives us poems representative of both, strong poems we associate with this former poet laureate, and anemic ones that look like an established hand cruising because he can.

What struck me is how many of thes
Apr 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Horoscopes for the Dead is another
in the somewhat long line of Billy Collins'
collections of poetry, and is of the same
kind as the rest; that is to say,

filled with his cold warmth, the distance
that comes from believing oneself just a little
smarter than everyone else in the room, a bit
cleverer with words, deeper in feeling,

and having a slightly more meaningful
insight into living than his reader.
Feb 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I never tire of Billy Collins, especially when I just want a poem that makes sense, sounds beautiful when read aloud, is precise in its attention to detail, and connects to my soul. This book delivers.

I'm not sure if it's kosher to copy the text of a poem in its entirety and post it on Goodreads, but until Mr. Collins asks for it to be removed, here is one of my favorites called "Good News."

Good News

When the news came in over the phone
that you did not have cancer, as they first thought,

I was in
Jul 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
i love billy collins's poetry but i just wasn't very impressed by this particular collection
Jun 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011
On page 27. I took a nap and, when I woke, noticed that I'd been dreaming in Billy-speak. . . .

There are several good poems here. Much to admire for sure. And there are some not-so-good poems here. Scratch head. Turn page. It makes you wonder if everything he writes, good or bad, goes into the book.

He's self-deprecating and likable, witty, and sometimes humorous. But sometimes I feel as though the attempts at humor are strained or stretched too thin. Collins always seems to be caught up in a da
How the heck do you rate and review poetry anyhow?!
Nov 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Billy Collins is one of my favorite poets for a multitude of reasons, notably for me - he has such an economy with words, using them in a way that evokes a wide range of emotions for each measure he takes on. He can be humored, but at the same time depict grief and coming to terms poignantly with each line. I think I credit my discovery of his work through my college studies, even dating as far back as his release of "Nine Horses" and then backtracking through his individual books from there.

I f
Nov 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
(A review I wrote for the University of Missouri's "Maneater")

Obtain equal parts Dane Cook and Thomas Hardy. Blend well. Publish. Yields: 51 Billy Collins poems.

A poet unrivaled in sarcastic wit and candor, Collins is the perfect antidote to English 2100 and up. Those jaded by Longfellow and Frost may be tempted to throw in the towel as the semester winds to a close, but Collins offers a fresh take on his chosen form of expression: the poem.

In Collins’ straightforward work, no theme lies buried
Dec 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I try to find poets I like who pick dirt from their fingernails and compare it with the moon. I read of despair and myth and omens in the middle atmosphere. But I blink and am less than ambitions about finishing another line - much less going on to poem number two. I would never even consider reading the poem aloud to the Christmas meeting of my book group. But Billy. Sweet balding Billy. I can always find a poem that makes me smile. And then .... wait a minute ... there is some hint of the scen ...more
Kirsty Hughes
Feb 07, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: literary, quickie
3 stars, because that means I liked it. Read this collection in one sitting, mainly because I had to for school. Collins is a great writer, writing about regular people and regular lives. His poetry is relatable, sad, and sometimes humorous.
Peter Derk
Feb 21, 2014 rated it liked it
I have a hard time reviewing poetry. Every collection, it'll have a few you love, a few you hate, and a bunch you won't remember. It's the most horrible thing I can think to say about something that someone pours their heart into. Imagine someone saying this about his three children. I love the one, the other one I hate, and the middle one I barely even remember.

I'll include a favorite here. Maybe that will help anyone on the fence make a decision.

Drawing You From Memory

I seem to have forgotten
Bill Keefe
Sep 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
I can just about hear the words emerge from my mouth, all wet with excitement, "...can never get enou.." when I see Billy Collins in front of me, (occasional) cigarette hanging from his lips, slowly moving his index finger up and down as the rest of his closed fist, chest high, bent slightly forward from the wrist, slowly follows in time, reminding me with a wry smile and those eyes of fresh spring innocence that in fact, I can. Surely now, I can. But at this moment, as his image disappears like ...more
James Murphy
I don't know. As always, Collins' humor and willingness to recognize the quirky in our lives carry him a long way. His "Vocation" here in Horoscopes for the Dead, in which he sees a new constellation of the Pig, is an example. For the first time Collins didn't satisfy. I think he always tries to straddle the fence, tries to say something serious by coming at it via funny misdirection, like the unfamiliar guest who isn't quite secure expressing ideas without giving himself an amusing back door to ...more
Jun 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2011
I enjoy poetry, but I can't always explain why. When I read poetry, I do it for enjoyment and not as any type of scholarly exercise. So why do I feel guilty, sometimes, for liking Billy Collins so much? I guess because when I read it, I don't think to myself, oh now I'm going to try to dissect this obscure poem and wring some meaning from it. Instead, I just enjoy what I'm reading. They say the sign of true genius is making the difficult look easy. I don't think there is any English language poe ...more
Joan Colby
Aug 27, 2011 rated it liked it
This collection is rather mundane, as if Collins is running out of steam a bit and thus forced to include poems that don’t meet the standard one has come to expect of him. The title poem is the best. I also liked two poems about dogs—Good News and Two Creatures. Others such as Memento Mori, Hell, Poem on the 300th Anniversary of the Trinity School, The Chairs That No One Sits In, Unborn Children, Table Talk and Winter in Utah were good. However, too many were so-so and seem to have been included ...more
Eric Slyter
Nov 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Let me start by saying I absolutely love poetry. However, there is very little of it that I find worthwhile (I know, I know, I sound like a snob). But really I'm not, I promise. I just happen to have a particular taste. This new collection from Billy Collins remains one of the best collections of poetry I have come across. Simplistic yet profound. Smooth on the surface and complex beneath. Entirely accessible to even the most inexperienced poetry reader, yet satisfying to the pros. Horoscopes fo ...more
Mar 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: I recommend Collins to almost every reader I meet.
Shelves: poetry
Billy Collins is my favorite contemporary American poet. I re-read Horoscopes for the Dead Friday on a bus ride to Georgia, and it was a great way to pass the time. There may've been one or two poems in this collection that fell flat or didn't resonate with me, but that's all. Almost every poem in here sparkles and shines, makes my heart sing and brings a smile to my face.
Dec 09, 2013 rated it really liked it

I always find poems in his work that amuse or move me. The ones that amuse delight me most.
Feb 26, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: m, poetry
This collection beat out my first collection for the Goodreads Choice Award back in 2011, so anything I write here will be tinged with that information. If I loved it, that could be a way to defend myself. If I hated it, that could be pettiness. If I gave it a fair and middling review, that would make me seem above it all.

I’m not above it all. This collection is not good. I maybe would have preferred to love it, but it’s greeting card poetry. It’s hammock and Mitch Albom novel poetry. It’s poetr
Apr 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Collins' work is a great example of how simple writing can bring out complex emotion. His voice is unique, so far, in my reading, as he has not fallen into melodrama or tried to elevate himself with higher dialect. The US Poet Laureate from 2001-2003, this book (published in 2011) is definitely an eye opener about how mainstream poetry has evolved in less than 10 years. He includes no political commentary, and he's not writing for a cause, or to represent any group of people (although, admittedl ...more
John of Canada
I was very fortunate in that I read the poem on page 59 without looking at the title.I was a little concerned about how dark it was until I read the title.Try this if you like.It's very funny.Billy Collins is the greatest.Watch some of his readings on youtube.
Katie Karnehm-Esh
Dec 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I unabashedly love Billy Collins and this collection. "Horoscopes for the Dead" and "Good News" undid me.
J.j. Wylie
May 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
* Note: my complete review of this book can be found at *

Every couple of years, when the Olympics start playing again on my television, I always have the same thought: "They make it look so easy!"

Whether I'm watching a gymnast tumbling & skipping through her floor routine or a ski-jumper executing some impossible freestyle stunt before sticking his landing, I actually entertain the thought, "That doesn't look so hard!"

Of course, on an intellectual lev
Aug 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I love Billy Collins. He just plain says it. He doesn't reach for the heroic or the epic in the ordinary. The ordinary is enough. And he just plain says it. But when he does, he takes you to some unexpected place where things look very different from the ordinary.

As his poems unfold and we arrive at this other place, it’s extraordinary because we are right there with him--not below or behind or at a distance.

Collins is cool. Last semester, I showed some video adaptations of some of his poems--c
Nov 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012, poetry
I have read Billy Collins in the past, but not a whole book of his poems. I didn't at first fall in love with any, but I still enjoyed them, the unencumbered look at daily life, the slips of humor and irony. As I progressed through the book, though, I started _feeling_ them more deeply, which is a good thing. :)

Some I want to remember -

Simple Arithmetic (p 32)
"and gone are my notebook and my pencil / and there I go, too, / erased by my own eraser and blown like shavings off the page."

May 03, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-i-reviewed
Some critique I read online derided Collins for being a suburban poet. Well, people in the suburbs need poems too. The discussion I was reading though missed what I personally find to be the crucial joy of Collins poems; these critics were talking about deeper meaning and symbolism or lack thereof and so forth, but for me his poems read, often, like good haiku. That is, it's not always about a deeper meaning or truth, sometimes it's about giving you enough words, placed just so, that open a door ...more
May 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Horoscopes for the Dead by Billy Collins, published in 2011 by Random House, is broken into four sections and includes a quote at the beginning from Alan Bennett‘s The Uncommon Reader, “It was the kind of library he had only read about in books.”

Collins’ mater-of-fact tone in these poems treats death and loss as an inevitability, which it is, but at the same time there is a reverence for the dead, dying, and living. In terms of Bennett’s quote at the beginning, Collins’ phenomenal library is the
Charlotte Klein
Sep 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The poems in 'Horoscopes for the Dead,' cover the usual but eternal themes of love and loss, life and death, youth and aging, loneliness and union. With simple words and flowing lines, anyone can read Collins' poems and fall in love with poetry, as in the poem whose title is the same as the book, Horoscopes for the Dead:

Every morning since you disappeared for good,
I read about you in the newspaper
along with the box scores, the weather, and all the bad news.
Some days I am reminded that today
Mar 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I made it a goal last year to read more non-novels: specifically short story anthologies, books of poetry, and graphic novels. I read one book of poetry last year (Brown Girl Dreaming) and it was excellent. So I'm not really sure why it took me a year+ to read another volume. But Billy Collins is every bit of the master his status as two-time Poet Laureate would indicate, and now I very much want to read more by him. I really appreciate how accessible and personable his poems are; his sense of h ...more
Nov 17, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry, read-in-2012
I enjoy Billy Collins, but despite the airplane on the cover of this, the poems in this collection never really took off for me. The poems lack turn, they seem often to lack purpose. And sometimes they go on too long. The title poem, for example, is amusing and there's the promise that the writer might tie it up and make a point, but it just keeps meandering. Here it is online:

The poem "Feedback" was just plain gratuitous, like the poet laughing at his ow
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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.

What do you think of my new glasses
I asked as I stood under a shade tree
before the joined grave of my parents,

and what followed was a long silence
that descended on the rows of the dead
and on the fields and the woods beyond,

one of the one hundred kinds of silence
according to the Chinese belief,
each one distinct from the others,

but the differences being so faint
that only a few special monks
were able to tell them apart.

They make you look very scholarly,
I heard my mother say
once I lay down on the ground

and pressed an ear into the soft grass.
Then I rolled over and pressed
my other ear to the ground,

the ear my father likes to speak into,
but he would say nothing,
and I could not find a silence

among the 100 Chinese silences
that would fit the one that he created
even though I was the one

who had just made up the business
of the 100 Chinese silences -
the Silence of the Night Boat

and the Silence of the Lotus,
cousin to the Silence of the Temple Bell
only deeper and softer, like petals, at its farthest edges.”
My Hero

Just as the hare is zipping across the finish line,
the tortoise has stopped once again
by the roadside,
this time to stick out his neck
and nibble a bit of sweet grass,
unlike the previous time
when he was distracted
by a bee humming in the heart of a wildflower.”
More quotes…