Monday, October 28, 2013

Aimless Love by Billy Collins

Billy Collins is far and away my favorite poet.  His simple language, profound insights, and humorous poems are my ideal, My goal is to write a poem which causes a reader to think, “that reminds me of Billy Collins.”  Whenever Collins comes out with a new volume of poetry, I buy and devour a it as quickly as I can.  Published this month, Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems is his tenth collection.

In this case I immediately flipped to the last section containing the new poems.  Fifty nuggets awaited my attention.  My favorite is “Foundling.”  “How unusual to be living a life of continual self-expression, / jotting down little things, / noticing a leaf being carried down a stream, / then wondering what will become of me, // and finally to work alone under a lamp / as if everything depended on this, / groping blindly down a page, like someone lost in a forest. // And to think it all began one night / on the steps of a nunnery / where I lay gazing up from a sewing basket, / which was doubling for a proper baby carrier, // staring into the turbulent winter sky, too young to wonder about anything / including my recent abandonment-- / but it was there that I committed // my first act of self-expression, / sticking out my infant tongue / and receiving in return (I can see it now) / a large, pristine snowflake much like any other” (175).

His nature poems also affect me deeply.  In “Osprey,” Collins sketches a scene I have lived through myself many times.  He writes, “Oh, large brown, thickly-feathered creature / with a distinctive white head, / you, perched on the top branch / of a tree near the lake shore, // as soon as I guide this boat back to the dock / and walk up the grassy path to the house, / before I unzip my windbreaker / and lift the binoculars from around my neck, // before I wash the gasoline from my hands, / before I tell anyone I am back, / and before I hang the ignition key on its nail, / or pour myself a drink-- // I’m thinking a vodka soda with lemon-- / I will look you up in my / illustrated guide to North American birds / and I promise I will learn what you are called” (208).

Collins has written a number of poems about writing and poetry, and this volume contains one about reading.  The title is “Reader,” and he wrote: “Looker, gazer, skimmer, skipper, / thumb-licking page turner, peruser, / you getting your print-fix for the day, pencil chewer, not taker, marginalianist / with your checks and X’s / firs-timer or revisiter, / browser, speedster, English Major, / flight-ready girl, melancholy boy, / invisible companion, thief, blind date, perfect stranger-- // that is me rushing to the window / to see if it’s you passing under the shade trees /  with a baby carriage or a dog on a leash, / me picking up the phone / to imagine your unimaginable number, me standing by a map of the world / wondering where you are-- / alone on a bench in a train station / or falling asleep, the book sliding to the floor?” (xix).

Aimless Love by Billy Collins is a wonderful way to introduce yourself to his work.  I bet you will soon find a collection of all his volumes of poetry, silently standing guard amid the Cs on a bookshelf, patiently awaiting your call.  5 stars 

--Chiron, 10/28/13

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