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Horoscopes for the Dead: Poems Hardcover – 5 Apr 2011

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 47 reviews
52 of 52 people found the following review helpful
sharp & accessible, but chock full of the unexpected 6 April 2011
By C. O. Aptowicz - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Billy Collins has become such a poetic institution -- widely regarded as the most popular poet working today and known for his accessibility, as well as the enjoyability & lightness of his verse -- that it can be sometimes it be easy to forget that Billy Collins is a human being, a poet who is still exploring, experimenting and engaging.

In "Horoscopes for the Dead," these two Billy Collins -- the beloved poetic institution and still evolving writer -- are somersaulting all over each other.

For fans of iconic Billy Collins work, there is a lot to love in this collection. There are beautiful and clever pieces about house guests, beloved dogs, walks in the woods, poetry workshops and poetry readings, dinner parties, dinner guests and sometimes just dinners. You get the sense, as you may have in previous collections, that Collins is conspiring with you in some wonderful morning kitchen, and that you just happen to be the lucky recipient of his well-turned phrases and well-timed thoughts.

And yet, there are poems in here that are likely to surprise.

In this collection -- even more so than his last, "Ballistics" -- Collins seems fixated on the darker elements of life. While "Ballistics" explored the shadows of heartbreak, "Horoscopes for the Dead" seems to intent on meeting mortality in its eyes. In pieces like the book's first poem, "Grave" -- in which finds Collins laying down on the graves of his parents, hoping to communicate with them in some way -- to the book's title poem -- where the absurdity of horoscopes is juxtaposed with a longing for passed friends -- Collins seems to find himself musing about death in a variety of ways. Even the death of marriage, which he describes as a "the department of lost husbands / or sometimes, as now, the department of dark and pouring rain."

But this collection also finds Collins lost in lust, snapping with stubbornness, itchy with frustration, and there is even a poem recalling his first acid trip -- all things that perhaps aren't associated with iconic Collins poetry. But to me, that's a good thing, a healthy sign for any poet that he can still delight and surprise, that he isn't letting his poetry be dictated by what his audience might want, but instead by what he wants to share, the darkness and the light.

I am happy to add "Horoscopes for the Dead" to my collection of Collins books, and selfishly & eagerly await his next one as well.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Hard not to Like Collins 14 Nov. 2011
By J. Doom - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoy poetry, but I can't always explain why. When I read poetry, I do it for enjoyment and not as any type of scholarly exercise. So why do I feel guilty, sometimes, for liking Billy Collins so much? I guess because when I read it, I don't think to myself, oh now I'm going to try to dissect this obscure poem and wring some meaning from it. Instead, I just enjoy what I'm reading. They say the sign of true genius is making the difficult look easy. I don't think there is any English language poet doing that better than Collins. His wit is sharp, he observations are seemingly simple, but when I really analyze what he is doing and realize how wonderful his word choices are, I really see a sort of genius there.

This book of poetry, Horoscopes for the Dead, is no different. Billy treats us to his dark humor, his light humor, his humor humor, and his wonderful ability to put concise words to paper, one after another the absolute best he can. And the result is a treat. Buy this book! Buy all his books.
23 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Unless you're a Collins fan, pass this one up 8 Jun. 2011
By dilbert guy - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I have read most of Collins other poetry books and do really like his poetry. This book however is just plain dull. The cover is great. Too bad the poems inside don't match it. There are a lot of observation poems -- I saw ______________ and it reminds me of _________. Just not fun to read. A few of them are okay, but none of the poems are as good as in his previous books. If you really want to read this see if you can get it from your library first to make sure you really do want to read it. This is not his finest work.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A Collection of "A" Poems 22 Jun. 2011
By Foster Corbin - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Billy Collins has said that the romantic poets killed off humor and replaced sex with landscapes. He also maintains that much poetry is about death and that we should read it for pleasure rather than analyzing it to death. (I believe that is a close paraphrase of what I heard him say about the poetry of Emily Dickinson in a recent radio interview.) He states, furthermore, that a poet should neither show all his cards nor place them all face down. This most popular of contemporary poets (United States Poet Laureate from 2001 to 2003) certainly practices what he preaches. Although many of the poems in his latest collection HOROSCOPES FOR THE DEAD deal with death, he doesn't forget to amuse us, throw in an erotic poem or two and make his poems accessible.

The poem "Feedback" will make your smile: "The woman who wrote from Phoenix/after my reading there/to tell me they were all still talking about it/just wrote again/to tell me that they had stopped."

The award for the erotic (with humor) goes to "Genesis" where the narrator wonders how it would have been if Eve had been created before Adam and considers
What life would be like as one of your ribs--
To be with you all the time,
riding under your blouse and skin,
caged with the soft weight of yours breasts. . .

Mr. Collins often writes about dogs. I particularly like "Two Creatures." I submit it to the critics who find his poems not deep enough.

And because her [his dog's] eyes always follow me,
She must wonder, too, why

I shift from place to place,
From the couch to the sink
Or the pencil sharpener on the wall--

Two creatures bound by wonderment
Though unlike her, I have never once worried
After letting her out the back door

That she would take off in the car
And leave me to die
Behind the solid locked doors of this house.

Finally of the many poems on the subject of death "Grave" is hauntingly beautiful. The narrator visits the graves of his mother and father and asks them what they think of his new glasses. His mother says they make him "look very scholarly" but his father remains silent:

But he would say nothing,
And I could not find a silence

Among the 100 Chinese silences
That would fit the one that he created
Even though I was the one

Who had just made up the business
Of the 100 Chinese silences--
The Silence of the Night Boat

And the Silence of the Lotus,
Cousin to the Silence of the Temple Bell
Only deeper and softer, like petals, at its farthest edges.

Mr. Collins, with I suspect a twinkle in his eye, says he is grateful to "George Green, who assigned most of these poems a passing grade." I would give them all an "A."
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Horoscopes for the Dead: Poems 6 May 2011
By C. Anderson - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Billy Collins' latest collection of poems does not disappoint. Collins makes poetry of ordinary things and writes with an ear to the reader. He blends many emotions and often adds a sense of wry humor. He is my favorite modern poet and I treasure his books. This is a review of a book purchased from Amazon.
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