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Poetry Collection Review: Ballistics by Billy Collins

Updated: Sep 9, 2021


Title: Ballistics


Author: Billy Collins


Themes: Love, Death, Solitude, Youth, Aging, Sense of Place


Three Words to Describe the Poems: Light, Warm, Simple


Blurb from Back of Book:A Billy Collins poem is instantly recognizable. "Using simple, understandable language," notes USA Today, the two-term U.S. Poet Laureate "captures ordinary life-its pleasure, its discontents, its moments of sadness and of joy." His everyman approach to writing resonates with readers everywhere and generates fans who would otherwise never give a poem a second glance. Now, in this stunning new collection, Collins touches on a greater array of subjects-love, death, solitude, youth, and aging-delving deeper than ever before. Ballistics comes at the reader full force with moving and playful takes on life. As Collins strives to find truth in the smallest detail, readers are given a fascinating, intimate glimpse into the heart and soul of a brilliantly thoughtful man and exemplary poet.'


Summary and Comments: The blurb pretty much says it best when it comes to Billy Collins and why I like the man’s work: it’s simple, it’s generally short, and it invokes both emotion and images inside you that take you somewhere else no matter where you are currently reading his work. Collins uses human emotion and memory to tug readers into his world, taking us on trips to Paris, New York, or Florida, depending on which locale he’s writing the poem in, and his settings are cross-generational, able to apply to everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, creed, gender, or orientation.

His poems in this collection, like every other one I’ve read by him so far, are all tight, short and sweet, and use simple, common language in order to explore deep and defining themes. Unlike some of his earlier work, a lot of these poems do dwell on aging and death, as the collection was published when Collins was 67, but not in a way that should scare away younger readers—he seeks to explore the themes with an ounce of humor and a heaping of contemplation, and it all comes together very well.


If you’re looking for a collection that can allow you to either breeze through it quickly in an hour, or one that can force you to slow down and consider each image and message that Collins is trying to paint with his language, this collection is for you.


Rating: 4 out of 5 stars



Favorite Poem: ‘The Future’


When I finally arrive there— and it will take many days and nights— I would like to believe others will be waiting and might even want to know how it was.

So I will reminisce about a particular sky or a woman in a white bathrobe or the time I visited a narrow strait where a famous naval battle had taken place.

Then I will spread out on a table a large map of my world and explain to the people of the future in their pale garments what it was like—

how mountains rose between the valleys and this was called geography, how boats loaded with cargo plied the rivers and this was known as commerce,

how the people from this pink area crossed over into this light-green area and set fires and killed whoever they found and this was called history—

and they will listen, mild-eyed and silent, as more of them arrive to join the circle like ripples moving toward, not away from, a stone tossed into a pond.

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