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Horoscopes for the Dead

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  3,781 ratings  ·  399 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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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
Dec 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was beautiful. Loved his poems and the organization of this collection. My favorite: My Hero. A unique perspective on the Tortoise and the Hare. All around, if you are a fan of poetry and exploring the relationships of themes throughout our world, I highly recommend it.
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
robin friedman
May 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Who Said I Had To Always Play/The Secretary Of The Interior?

Billy Collins asks the question above in his poem, "Returning the Pencil to Its Tray" which concludes his most recent collection of poems, "Horoscopes for the Dead" (2011). In the poem, Collins describes the joy of the everyday as "the first bits of sun are on/ the yellow flowers behind the low wall," and "people in cars are on their way to work,/ and I will never have to write again." Collins follows with the wonderfully paradoxical l
Jul 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-a-day, poetry
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
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
How the heck do you rate and review poetry anyhow?!
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.
Sep 08, 2020 rated it really liked it

The woman who wrote from Phoenix
after my reading there

to tell me they were all still talking about it

just wrote again
to tell me that they had stopped.

Will come back to re-read because I took too many breaks in between and feel guilty I never did justice to Mr. Collins.
Also read few of them multiple times as they felt closer to my heart and I'm wondering why that was. (I guess I was biased with some)
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
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
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
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
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Aug 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
A Billy Collins poem is very clearly a Billy Collins poem. The characters in a Billy Collins poem live regular lives and say regular things and eat regular food and do regular things. But there is always a twist, a what-if, a if-only. Beautiful little poems that can be read and enjoyed by old people or very young people. A little sadness, a little laughter.
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
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
Apr 19, 2012 rated it it was ok
I actually quit on this. Started ok, some were interesting. A few suddenly sounded pretentious and dumb, maybe because he was referencing his poems in the middle of his poems. That's where I draw the line I guess. The kicker was when I decided to give up on it I finally checked the flaps for the bio and pic: classic poet with his glasses in his mouth. That was just too much!
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.
book rat
Apr 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Billy Collins has such a wry sense of humor. Against all his sarcasm the moments of sincerity are gold.

If you don't like poetry, maybe give this a shot! Very accessable, very fun
Feb 26, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry, m
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.
Adeena Mansoor
Mar 25, 2020 rated it liked it
it’s safe to agree upon the fact that i am as clueless as billy collins about life. but I’d definitely like to ponder upon the peculiar questions he instigated in my hapless mind. the best part about this book is the tiny bits of meaning in the scenic wordiness, flashier than my future endeavours.
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 level,
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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.

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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.
15 likes · 2 comments

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…