In Ballistics, the reader will happily find the Billy Collins of his or her previous acquaintance: whimsical, thoughtful, and hauntingly eloquent. As a collection, the poems of Ballistics flow together nicely, but then, there's always something so clearly Collins about his work that I imagine this effect could be achieved with any grouping.

While I love poetry, I admit that I'm never quite sure how one should "review" a book of it. I tend to be introduced to poets by others and only then do I purchase a book by a single poet, confident that I enjoy their voice and will eagerly listen to whatever it is he or she has to say. Such is the case with Billy Collins, who is one of my favorite living poets. I almost wish he was more obscure so that such an observation could be deemed interesting, but Collins is well-respected and rightfully so. Since poetry always feels so personal, I find it hard to write up a true review, so I will simply say that I quite enjoyed this collection and here are three of my favorite poems from this work that will have to represent what I love about Billy Collins's poetry.


Go, little book,
out of this house and into the world,

carriage made of paper rolling toward town
bearing a single passenger
beyond the reach of this jittery pen,
far from the desk and the nosy gooseneck lamp.

It is time to decamp,
put on a jacket and venture outside,
time to be regarded by other eyes,
bound to be held in foreign hands.

So off you go, infants of the brain,
with a wave and some bits of fatherly advice:

stay out as late as you like,
don't bother to call or write,
and talk to as many strangers as you can.

"Oh, My God!"

Not only in church
and nightly by their bedsides
do young girls pray these days.

Wherever they go,
prayer is woven into their talk
like a bright thread of awe.

Even at the pedestrian mall
outbursts of praise
spring unbidden from their glossy lips.

"The Mortal Coil"

One minute you are playing the fool,
strumming a tennis racquet as if it were a guitar
for the amusement of a few ladies
and the next minute you are lying on your deathbed,
arms stiff under the covers,
the counterpane tucked tight across your chest.

Or so seemed the progress of life
as I was flipping through the photographs
in Proust: The Later Years by George Painter.

Here he is at a tennis party, larking for the camera,
and 150 pages later, nothing but rictus on a pillow,
and in between; a confection dipped
into a cup of lime tea and brought to the mouth.

Which is why, instead of waiting
for our date this coming weekend,
I am now speeding to your house at 7:45 in the morning
where I hope to catch you half dressed--

and I am wondering which half
as I change lanes without looking --

with the result that we will be lifted
by the urgent pull of the flesh
into a state of ecstatic fusion, and you will be late for work.

And as we lie there
in the early, latticed light,
I will suggest that you take George Painter's
biography of Proust
to the office so you can show your boss
the pictures that caused you to arrive shortly before lunch
and he will understand perfectly,

for I imagine him to be a man of letters,
maybe even a devoted Proustian,
but at the very least a fellow creature,
ensnared with the rest of us in the same mortal coil,

or so it would appear from the wishful
vantage point of your warm and rumpled bed.

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