Billy Collins,
The Art of Drowning
(University of Pittsburgh Press, 1995)

Billy Collins' original voice is delightfully accessible, often blending comedy and solemnity in one poem, and always with something new to say.

The playful tone of these poems can be misleading; whether he is writing about eating a good plate of Osso Bucco or his favorite museum rooms, there is always a pathos lingering in the silence after the last line. Most relieving is the absence of pretentiousness or haughty language.

This is simply, as Robert Bly writes in his introduction to the best American poems of 1999, Collins' skillful ability to "bring the soul up close to the thing" in every poem. Books such as The Art of Drowning threaten to change the face and purpose of poetry in the 21st century. Let's hope there is plenty more to come from Collins.

- Rambles
written by Gianmarc Manzione
published 22 February 2003

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