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Authors: Billy Collins

The Trouble with Poetry

BOOK: The Trouble with Poetry
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Praise for
The Trouble with Poetry

“Clever, subtle and engaging … offer[ing] moments of sweetness, truth and easy humor.”

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“In his latest collection … Collins demonstrates why he is one of our best poets, with his appealing trademark style: a self-deprecating charm, playful wit and unexpected imaginative leaps.… [He] is adept at the perfect, shimmering phrase.… With an easy nonchalance and deceptive simplicity, [he] explores our world.… Sit back and enjoy this ride with Collins at the wheel.”

San Antonio Express-News

“[Collins] moves you to laughter and tears, often during the course of one poem.… His insight into the human condition astonishes.”


“Billy Collins is the Oprah of poetry.… By careful observation, Collins spins comic gold from the dross of quotidian suburban life.… Chipping away at the surface, he surprises you by scraping to the wood underneath, to some deeper truth.”

Entertainment Weekly

“Collins’s accessible and deeply human poetry would make a poetry lover out of anyone.”

Good Housekeeping

“[This] new collection by Collins … should bolster his standing as America’s most popular poet. All the poems in
The Trouble with Poetry
are accessible and thoughtful, many are funny, and worth reading aloud.… [His poems contain] a kind of frank optimism or benevolence that is … simply warm and human.”

Virginia Quarterly

“Collins is as close as anyone in contemporary American poetry will likely get to being a household name. Blame his sweet, smart, and wise poems … his colorful personality and ungoverned humor; or his remarkable energy.… This collection is as rich and mischievous as anything he has given us previously. Highly recommended.”

Library Journal

“Disarming … and devastatingly funny … Skeptical of love and scornful of pretension, Collins is breathtaking in his appreciation of the earth’s beauty and the precious daily routines that define life.”


“Collins has a firm grasp of his art and craft.… If he gives a reading near you, by all means go. You might just get hooked on poetry.”

Washington Times

“Charming … With his wit and plainspokenness, Collins is a likeable successor to Robert Frost.”

Plain Dealer

“You will find yourself reading the poems out loud, smiling and reading them again, sharing them with a friend. The perfect holiday or houseguest present for the friend who loves poetry—or who has yet to discover its joys and rewards.”


“[Collins’s] comic gifts … his light touch, his self-deprecating pathos and his unerring sense of his audience … remain evident in this eighth collection.”

Publishers Weekly

“Stuns with simple language … Collins is by turns insightful, sensitive and, always, witty.”

The Advocate

“The perfect gift for someone who loves poetry or, for that matter, hates it.… Collins’ poems speak a language accessible to all and are filled with wit, wisdom and humor.”

Acadiana LifeStyle

Also by Billy Collins

Nine Horses
Sailing Alone Around the Room
Picnic, Lightning
The Art of Drowning
Questions About Angels
Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry
180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Every Day

2007 Random House Trade Paperback Edition

Copyright © 2005 by Billy Collins

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Random House Trade
Paperbacks, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group,
a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

and colophon are
trademarks of Random House, Inc.

Originally published in hardcover in the United States
by Random House, an imprint of The Random House
Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., in 2005.

Previous publication information about some of the poems
contained within this work can be found beginning on
this page

eISBN: 978-0-307-43271-1

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Collins, Billy.
The trouble with poetry: and other poems / Billy Collins.
p.  cm.
I. Title: Trouble with poetry. II. Title.
PS3553.O47478T76 2005
811′.54—dc22      2005046562


To my students and my teachers

My idea of paradise is a perfect automobile
going thirty miles an hour on a smooth road
to a twelfth-century cathedral.

A Note to the Reader About this Poetry eBook

The way a poem looks on the page is a vital aspect of its being. The length of its lines and the poet’s use of stanza breaks give the poem a physical shape, which guides our reading of the poem and distinguishes it from prose.

With an eBook, this distinct shape may be altered if you choose to take advantage of one of the functions of your eReader by changing the size of the type for greater legibility. Doing this may cause the poem to have line breaks not intended by the poet. To preserve the physical integrity of the poem, we have formatted the eBook so that any words that get bumped down to a new line in the poem will be noticeably indented. This way, you can still appreciate the poem’s original shape regardless of your choice of type size.

You, Reader

I wonder how you are going to feel

when you find out

that I wrote this instead of you,

that it was I who got up early

to sit in the kitchen

and mention with a pen

the rain-soaked windows,

the ivy wallpaper,

and the goldfish circling in its bowl.

Go ahead and turn aside,

bite your lip and tear out the page,

but, listen—it was just a matter of time

before one of us happened

to notice the unlit candles

and the clock humming on the wall.

Plus, nothing happened that morning—

a song on the radio,

a car whistling along the road outside—

and I was only thinking

about the shakers of salt and pepper

that were standing side by side on a place mat.

I wondered if they had become friends

after all these years

or if they were still strangers to one another

like you and I

who manage to be known and unknown

to each other at the same time—

me at this table with a bowl of pears,

you leaning in a doorway somewhere

near some blue hydrangeas, reading this.


The birds are in their trees,

the toast is in the toaster,

and the poets are at their windows.

They are at their windows

in every section of the tangerine of earth—

the Chinese poets looking up at the moon,

the American poets gazing out

at the pink and blue ribbons of sunrise.

The clerks are at their desks,

the miners are down in their mines,

and the poets are looking out their windows

maybe with a cigarette, a cup of tea,

and maybe a flannel shirt or bathrobe is involved.

BOOK: The Trouble with Poetry
6.47Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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