Billy Collins is the pinnacle of contemporary poets; his poetry is my talisman against negativity and existential ennui.
The only thing I like more than reading Billy Collins poems is listening to him read them. He writes uncomplicated poems about everyday life, people, objects, and events, and his melodious, flowing language is seeded with startling linguistic gems that render every subject magical. His measured, perfectly paced narration is ideally suited to each poem. Poetry, of course, inspires, ensures, soothes, and inflames each reader in different ways. Collins’ poetry does all that to me at once.
Several weeks ago, I chaperoned my daughter’s school Junior Thespians troupe to the annual conference south of Atlanta, Georgia. What should’ve been a 4-hour bus drive was elongated by several interstate accidents to 6 hours. Fortunately, I had loaded up my Kindle Paperwhite with Virginia Hanlon Grohl’s From Cradle to Stage: Stories From the Mothers Who Rocked and Raised Rock Stars, Christopher Rice’s Bone Music, and 2 Billy Collins collections, Horoscopes for the Dead and Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems. We spent a total of 11 hours on the bus coming and going, and I was able to finish everything but Aimless Love.
Having delved into several other successive books upon my return home, I allowed Aimless Love to expire without finishing it. Monday, I downloaded the e-audiobook from my awesome public library to my Kindle Fire and have been listening to it during my morning and evening commute all week.
Any driver who happens to pass me and look at me must think me an absolute lunatic when I’m listening to Billy Collins. Almost the whole time I’m listening, there’s a continuous smile on my face except when it’s momentarily replaced by outbursts of uproarious laughter or torso-shaking sobs of grief or glee. And I don’t mean just a little grin, although sometimes a smirk breaks in; I mean a face-splitting, cheek-stretching, ear-to-ear smile.
I’m willing to concede that my appreciation of Billy Collins’ poetry might border on the irrational. I may be more of a fanatic than a fan. I have to confess I am unable to conceive of how anyone could not be a fan. And of all his collections, I do believe that Aimless Love is the best. It ought to be subtitled Billy Collins’ Greatest Hits. It collects some of his very best poems; “The Revenant”, “The Country”, “The Trouble with Poetry”, “The Lanyard”, and on and on and on.
Some of you upon whom I’ve inflicted unsolicited comments about the virtues of Billy Collins are already familiar with my passion. And although this is, to my knowledge, my first full post about him, doubtless it won’t be my last. Billy Collins’ poetry is so otherworldly-inspiring that it changed the way I write my own poetry for the better. My sincere hopes are that those of you who haven’t yet discovered him will soon and that he has as profound an effect on you as he has on me.
Billy Collins, whichever window in the world you’re currently gazing out of, thank you. May the tiny flame at the tip of your pencil never burn out.