Aimless Love by Billy Collins
My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes
Date Published: October 22nd, 2013
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 288 pages
Synopsis: The first volume of New and Selected poetry in twelve years from the two-time Poet Laureate of the United States.
Aimless Love gives the reader an opportunity to assess the rich scope of Collins’ gifts. Containing more than fifty new poems and a generous gathering from his collections of the past decade-Horoscopes for the Dead, Ballistics, The Trouble with Poetry, and Nine Horses–Aimless Love showcases the best of his poetic maneuvers: the everyday ends in the infinite, playfulness is paired with empathy, irony gives way to wonder. Possessed of a unique voice that is at once plain and melodic, Billy Collins has managed to enrich American poetry while greatly widening the circle of its audience.
This is a very different sort of review from what I am used to writing. There is no plot to discuss, no characters to analyze—this is something much more indefinite. It is more brief and personal; a plethora of short narratives that unravel differently for each pair of eyes that fall on them. Poetry is an incredibly powerful and emotional type of writing, one that is far more open to individual interpretation than any other. Every work holds a different meaning—touches us all in a singular way—depending on who and where we are. It is challenging to evaluate something so intensely subjective, but I feel the need to recommend this particular experience.
Billy Collins has had a very long and distinguished career in writing. He served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003 and as Poet Laureate for the State of New York from 2004 to 2006. This particular collection is compiled of selected poems from Collins’ four most recently published books, with an additional section of his newest, previously unpublished work.
Very simply put, Billy Collins has a remarkable way with words. This was my first experience with his work, and just a few poems in, he had already secured a spot has one of my favorite poets of all time—definitely my favorite contemporary one. I am a massive fan of poetry—both reading and writing it—but I have rarely been so completely fascinated by one collection.
The great intelligence and perceptiveness in his words, as well as his unusual and highly intriguing view of the world, make for a captivating read. He has an uncanny knack for writing in a deceptively simple way. On the outside, many of his poems are seemingly very straightforward, focusing on mundane aspects of life and the world around us. However, dive into them and you will be struck with the true depth contained within the stanzas.
Collins’ writing is easily comprehensible, and the subjects he focuses on are exceedingly relatable, which opens his work up to a wide audience. Addressing all of his topics with a very wry tone, a great deal of wittiness, and an eclectic troupe of narrators, he achieves a perfect balance of both humor and earnestness. He tells stories about the smaller aspects of life—the little nooks and crannies of both the physical world and the human mind that often times go unnoticed.
What he accomplishes is a slowing in the pace of the reader’s world, followed by a gradual magnification of life on the periphery of our daily vision and the transient moments that can be lost on us completely. We are made to look at common events, issues, and emotions through an utterly unique lens. Every reader will come away from his poems with a revitalized view of their world and a deeper appreciation for that which is taken for granted or deemed inconsequential to our existence. Collins’ ability to so eloquently and successfully capture these details is astonishing.
The format of this collection makes it an absolutely wonderful introduction for those who have no prior experience with his writing. In a single book, we are given a condensed overview of over a decade of his life in poetry. Though his career is much more prolific than what can be summed up in a few hundred pages, we are able to get a taste for what it has been like—how his writing has grown and changed, and what has remained consistent throughout the years. All in all, it shows his distinctive, inspiring, and constantly engaging style.
I feel the need to point out once again that every reader’s feelings about this type of work will be incredibly unique and individual given the nature of poetry as a medium. For me personally, I truly connected with the writing and themes displayed throughout these pages. However, I believe that no matter what a reader does or doesn’t get from these poems, the extraordinary talent and mastery of language displayed by Collins is something everyone can appreciate. I cannot recommend his work—and this collection in particular—highly enough.