Thursday, 26 May 2016

Picnic, Lightning by Billy Collins


I still don't know very much about poetry. I don't know where to go to find new poets. I have little sense of the time and effort it takes to craft a poem. All I do know is that ever since I was introduced to Billy Collins' poetry, I have loved it very, very much. I've written reviews for two of his books of poetry previously, and I'm not really sure what new to say, except that Picnic, Lightning (a reference to Nabokov's Lolita) is similarly marvellous.

It's hard to explain what it is that always strikes me so keenly when I read Collins. It's not sentimental, but there is this sense of the eternal behind the mundane, the eternal through the mundane, a moment where the scattered debris of our lives is not just what it is, but is also something that connects us. This description makes it seem more touchy-feely than it is. 

I always have a hard time explaining what I feel in these poems. It's that ephemeral and yet not shallow sense of connection, of paying attention to moments that otherwise pass by, thousands of them a day, and yet, when attention is placed just right, with just the right words, there are glimpses of transcendence and yet still of the sheer ordinariness of most of life.

I need that, in particular today, when I'm in the middle of a day where computers and tedious tasks and people not doing things they're supposed to are cluttering up my mind. It's not so much that I can get past that, to some zen state, but rather that I can recognize it as part of a pattern, a day that might resonate with other people if not for the same petty reasons, then for the same aggravated heart.

But that's what I'm bringing to this review and this book today.

There were several poems in this collection that I just absolutely adored - "Lines Composed Over Three Thousand Miles From Tintern Alley" for one, about the idea of a golden past and the use poetry makes of it, and "Looking West" for the sense of solidity and movement at once.

I am not sure what else to say. I don't know how to analyze poetry. I took one English course in university and dropped it as a subject forever, taking my refuge in History and Drama. This is going to be a short review, but I continue to really love Billy Collins' poetry, for its depth and its surface, its accessibility and its sometimes sly and hidden layers. 

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