Originally Published: June 25, 2015 9:40 p.m.
"Sailing Alone Around the Room" by Billy Collins
Billy Collins was the Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003 as well as the New York State Poet from 2004 to 2006. His accolades and achievements necessitate his presence on the radar of every modern poetry reader. "Sailing Alone Around the Room" is, at first glance, accessible and even simplistic. With more examination, the collection remains accessible and at times simplistic. Instead of employing vague and difficult machinations, Collins writes what he knows: everyday, lightly humorous observations followed with a twinge of darkly existentialist musing in the final stanza.
I enjoyed poems such as "Picnic, Lightning," in which the poet gets in touch with his own mortal insecurities. The poem's pleasing syntax in half the stanzas allows the reader to sit on the porch with the poet, while the other half feel like an internal musing that leaves a bad taste in your mouth, letting you know life is transient. Another selection that stuck out for me was "Dancing Towards Bethlehem," which, to me, is fairly representative of the poet's style: succinct but effective in evoking an atmosphere. Collins seems to consistently prefer feeling over plot; there are no revelations in his poetry. Most of the time his poems are vignettes, a mélange of daydreams in free verse.
To me, Collins is the Paul Simon of the poetry world (and, appropriately, they've even lectured together). They are both artists who have produced enjoyable and accessible art that America took no time in welcoming into the folds of our culture. That's why I think I have trouble with enjoying it as much as I could. For example, I love Paul Simon and "Bridge Over Troubled Water." However, most of the time I'd rather be challenged by the contemporaneous "White Light/White Heat" by the Velvet Underground. As good as Collins' poetry is, I can't help but want more, for the art to express something a little more invasive. Despite this, "Sailing Alone Around the Room" was worth it and is a delightful compilation. I see myself picking it back up again when I feel the need for daydream inspiration
Peregrine Book Company, 219-A N. Cortez St., is in downtown Prescott.