I hope she does not mind that I use it here on my own page now, as my own review of Ballistics, by Billy Collins.
I have just recently read Ballistics and prior to this I have read all of Collins’s other collections of poems, over the years. So I have really followed him, thanks to a friend introducing me to his work. And not only have I followed him, but he has very much influenced the way I myself write poetry.
I would say that the ease with which Collins handles commonplace events and the gentle way he looks in, around, and over any topic at his disposal, it has all helped me to see the beauty and wonder that are a part of everyday experience. And because of this, he has inspired me to do my own writing.
Some commentators are saying that he has “hit a dead end” with Ballistics.
Or, “The very things that make him popular, accessible and clever -- especially around the time of ‘Picnic, Lightning’ -- have solidified into concrete, and like a machine endlessly repeating itself he turns out poems with subtle color variations but which remain in the same mold.” [Sean Patrick Hill in The Oregonian].
I will agree that Ballistics seems to me “typical” Collins stuff.
But, having said that, it is still such rich and wonderful work.
Why fix what ain’t broke?
And I think that with Billy Collins a key word is “accessible.” Were I to be introducing someone to the world of contemporary poetry, it would be Billy Collins I was gift-wrapping.
And what about serenity?
For this, just listen to the endings, the last stanzas of so many of his poems here in Ballistics.
The way he describes what The Great American Poem might “sound” like:
I once heard someone compare it
to the sound of crickets in a field of wheat
or, more faintly, just the wind
over that field stirring things that we will never see.
From The Lamps Unlit –
And who cares if it takes me all day
to write a poem about the dawn
and I finish in the dark with the night –
some love it best – draped across my shoulders.
Or this, from one of my own favorites, Old Man Eating Alone in a Chinese Restaurant –
And I should mention the light
which falls through the big windows this time of day
italicizing everything it touches –
the plates and teapots, the immaculate tablecloths,
as well as the soft brown hair of the waitress
in the white blouse and short black skirt,
the one who is smiling now as she bears a cup of rice
and shredded beef with garlic to my favorite table in the corner.
Billy Collins is the epitome [in our day] of the magnification of words.
He takes the everyday and presents it as once in a lifetime.
The above-mentioned critic went on to point out that it is unfortunate that with Ballistics, Collins has failed to “expand, explore, and attempt to break new ground.”
Others of us can be somewhat grateful.
To read more about it, click → HERE.
To get your own copy, click → HERE.