Saturday, February 5, 2011

Nine Horses by Billy Collins

Nine Horses: PoemsTitle: Nine Horses
Author: Billy Collins
Pages: 144
Published: 2003 Random House (orig. 2002)
My Rating: 3.5 stars

I've done it!  I've made it through my first volume of modern poetry (not counting the children's poetry I read to my kiddos all the time) since this Literary Blog Hop.  Other than Willa Cather's April Twilights, which I read last year to kick off my personal goal to read Cather's published works, this really is the first serious attempt I've made to read grown-up poetry in just about forever.

I was hooked when I read the first poem: Night Letter to the Reader.  I read only a poem or two a day, not wanting to overload myself, but I still found that some of his poems just seemed to be alike.  I may have enjoyed it more if I had rotated with another poet, but I was a little afraid that if I did that, I wouldn't commit to finishing any one volume.

I was interested to find that, (like I mentioned on my Blog Hop post,) it was still the shorter poems that I enjoyed more.  There is just something about how condensed the thought becomes when it is fitted into few words that feels magical to me.  I loved this one:

No Time
In a rush this weekday morning,
I tap the horn as I speed past the cemetery
where my parents are buried
side by side under a smooth slab of granite.

Then, all day long, I think of him rising up
to give me that look
of knowing disapproval
while my mother calmly tells him to lie back down.
Leavings: PoemsI still find myself waffling between loving poetry and not connecting with it.  However, I'm now at the point where it seems to be more a matter of finding the right poet, or the right poems from the right poets, than a like or dislike of poetry on the whole. There seems to be such a wide variety in poetic style, that sometimes I wonder how it all fits together.  How do I go about finding my niche?

If There is Something to Desire: One Hundred PoemsSometimes I feel like if the poem is understandable then it can't truly be poetry--meaning, of course, that all the poems I like are of lesser quality somehow--although that's an obvious misconception.  I simply encounter much more poetry I don't like than that I do like, and I haven't yet figured out if that is due to a poetry-immaturity on my part or a stylistic preference, or a combination of the two.  What do you think?  Do I just keep looking and plugging away at different poets and see what happens?  I'm currently working through Leavings by Wendell Berry, and haven't decided where to go next.  I'm considering  If There is Something to Desire by Vera Pavlova because the poems look short and sweet.  How do you keep up on newly published poetry?  Thoughts and advice are welcome!


  1. Congrats! I enjoyed the poem you posted from the collection.

    I have mixed feelings about poetry too. I want to like it and read it more often, but it's hard to find the right poets.

  2. Why not try some classical poets? This might sound morbid--but poems really help when working through grief. Especially Emily Dickinson. She has some doosies. You have to read her poetry differently. If the first reading of a poem grabs you, how about trying to read the same poem over once a day for 5 days? You'll see eye-opening new meaning. I know you said you didn't like to do that--but maybe just try. Also, read it out loud.

    Also, I found it really inspiring to start a poetry journal. I just copy a poem in my poetry journal when it moves me. I might only write one poem a year or every 6 months. But, I now have my very own poetry collection that speaks to me. Try Auden.

  3. Sam, thanks for the encouragement/sympathy! I'll keep looking and posting on what I find, maybe you'll get something out of it at some point. :)

    Great suggestions, Heidi! Thank you! I've read some Emily Dickinson recently, maybe I'll continue on with that as well. I love your idea of a poetry journal. (Loved it so much that I started putting one together before even responding here!) I'd been trying to think of how to keep track of the poems I did like, this will do very nicely. It will make it easier for me to reread them and really digest them. Also, I do find that reading them aloud brings them to life; I will look into Auden. Thanks again!

  4. I like poetry, my favourite poet at the moment is Carol Ann Duffy. Anthologies are a great way to go. I tend to like a poet from there and then maybe read more from them. I've a post on my blog today that may interest you

  5. Joan, thank you for your thoughts. I'll look up Carol Ann Duffy and some anthologies--that does sound like a nice way to experience different poets. And I'm off to check out your blog. :)

  6. I love Heidi's suggestion of a poetry journal.. I might need to start one too! I think that it's all about finding the poet who speaks to you. Nobody likes ALL poetry, just as no one likes every book of prose on the shelf. And as far as the poetry that you like being worse quality because you understand it -- think of it this way: the poems that you understand might make no sense to someone else (thus them thinking it is lofty, or too intelligent).

    I'm a HUGE fan of Edna St. Vincent Millay. I also like some of Sylvia Plath's work.


I'd love to hear what you have to say, leave a comment!

There was an error in this gadget