NetGalley Devours: Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins

Today we have a special poetry review, to celebrate the final day of National Poetry Month. If you’ve already read and reviewed this title, be sure to share your review via the Feedback section in NetGalley, or on Facebook and Twitter! (#NGdevours)

Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins
Random House; Pub Date Oct 22 2013

Aimless Love

Description from the publisher:

From the two-time Poet Laureate of the United States Billy Collins comes his first compilation of new and selected poems in a decade. Aimless Love combines fifty new poems with selections from four previous books—Nine Horses, The Trouble with Poetry, Ballistics, and Horoscopes for the Dead. Collins’s unmistakable voice, which combines plain speech with imaginative surprise, is clearly heard on every page, reminding us how he has managed to enrich the tapestry of contemporary poetry and greatly expand its audience. His work is featured in top literary magazines such as The New Yorker, Poetry, and The Atlantic, and he is a strong draw at reading venues across the country. Appearing regularly in The Best American Poetry series, his poems appeal to readers and live audiences far and wide and have been translated into more than a dozen languages. By turns playful, ironic, and serious, Collins’s poetry captures the nuances of everyday life while leading the reader into zones of inspired wonder. In the poet’s own words, he hopes that his poems “begin in Kansas and end in Oz.” Touching on the themes of love, loss, joy, and poetry itself, these poems showcase the best work of this “poet of plenitude, irony, and Augustan grace” (The New Yorker). [From the Publisher]


It’s the last day in April, which means National Poetry Month has come to a close. Like many of us, I’ve enjoyed this scheduled reminder to pay attention to “the best words in the best order” (Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s definition of poetry). Funny how life gets in the way, isn’t it? What else is poetry if not the very stuff of life, and yet all the important life-milestones (graduations, jobs, marriages, children, etc) so sneakily push books of verse further and further down the to-read list. Well, at least that’s my excuse. So I particularly relished in our Poetry Roundup this month, and best of all took time to read Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins, which marked the two-time Poet Laureate’s first compilation in a decade.

The title poem (“Aimless Love” from 2002’s Nine Horses) struck me with its deceptive simplicity, one of those seemingly easy poems that at times feels soft and light and beautiful, but then stays with you because of its weight and truth that seems to expand and settle in, well after you finish reading. My first thought after my initial read was “this may be a perfect poem,” which of course is nonsense—what’s a perfect poem, anyway? And let’s not pretend I haven’t thought that before!—so I quickly discarded the notion as a side effect of being rusty at reading poetry. It has been too long, I thought, I’m just too easily wooed. But hours later, when I came back to it, “Aimless Love” still gave me pause. Ultimately, I must just recommend that you read it.

Of course “the most popular poet in America” (per Bruce Weber in the New York Times) has no shortage of poems about poetry (and reading and writing), and all of us word-lovers can relish in the opening poem of this collection (aptly titled “Reader”) when Collins speaks to us, imagining which type we fall under (“skimmer, skipper/thumb-licking page turner”, “pencil-chewer, note taker”, “English major/flight-ready girl, melancholy boy”).

And I’d be remiss to leave out “The Trouble with Poetry” (2005), since it’s perhaps never more fitting than on the last day of April, when we must ask “and how will it ever end?” For the poet, and for us too, poetry provides joy and sorrow, “but mostly poetry fills me/with the urge to write poetry,/to sit in the dark and wait for a little flame/to appear at the top of my pencil.”

So here’s to awaiting that spark—whether it drives you to write or discover new reads—and to the hope that it comes again and again, throughout the year.

Aimless Love is available to request on NetGalley here.

Pre-order your very own copy via your favorite place to get books: Amazon; Barnes & Noble; IndieBound; iBookstore

– Review written by Lindsey Rudnickas, Digital Marketing Manager


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