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4.8 out of 5 stars13
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 5 April 1999
Billy Collin's latest collection, "Picnic, Lightning" is a smart, funny, moving glimpse into everything from a Victoria's Secret catalog ("Victoria's Secret") to an encyclopedia ("What I Learned Today"), personal relationships ("Paradelle for Susan," which introduced me to a whole new poetic form) to the joy of jazz ("I Chop Parsley...", "Jazz and Nature"). Casual in tone, Collins' poems don't make the reader struggle with poetic diction or unfamiliar vocabulary. Like quiet conversation in a coffee house, they offer a friendly intimacy in their simplicity of subject, and yet challenge the reader with the unexpected leaps Collins makes in his imagery and ideas. "I Chop Parsley..." for example, starts out as a narrative about preparing a meal, becomes a meditation on jazz and a nursery rhyme, and all the while is an examination of how we try to hide our own emotional vulnerability even from ourselves. This poem (one of my favorites in the book) is a wonderful illustration of how willing Collins is to usher his readers into his interior world, observed with a wry self-knowledge and a refreshing gentleness. This is a collection written for readers in the late 20th century who value honesty, humor, razor-sharp observation, and hard-earned wisdom. I couldn't recommend it more highly.
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on 17 February 1999
The first time I read a Billy Collins poem I literally cried with recognition of something he was able to capture in words...that has happened to me many times since. His poetry is like clear water flowing, it's healing and revealing, it's good for a headache, good for your sense of perspective. He manages to be really accessible without being anything like shallow, his poetic voice addresses the reader with respect, without sounding patronizing. You don't have to write poetry to love and to "get" Billy Collins' poems. So, buy the book already!!!
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on 12 April 1998
Billy Collins is a very sincere and honest poet. He writes about whatever moment he happens to be experiencing; because of this, one could compare him to William Carlos Williams. Collins uses simple, short stanzas to communicate what is happening at any given moment in his life. For instance, in his poem, "The Many Faces of Jazz," Collins describes the looks that different people put on when listening to jazz. Collins shows his sincerity by telling the reader what he is really thinking--he communicates his doubts and fears, joys and pains with a rare sort of wit that is funny without being overly cynical. In "Victoria's Secret," Collins vents his frustration about frequently receiving the lingerie catalog. His wit in this poem is charming and honest, letting the reader know that Collins is a real person, not just a photo hiding behind ninety pages of words.
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on 13 January 1999
I bring Picnic, Lightning with me everywhere. The train, the laundrymat, the coffeeshop, the DMV (especially the DMV). More than any other American poet that I have come across, Collins is able to look at the ordinary things that happen to us on a daily basis and transform them into art. What happens when we stare too long at the new Victoria's secret catalog that has just arrived in the mail? Where does our imagination go when we think to long on Emily Dickinson? Why don't men where hats anymore? Let Collins answer these probing questions for you. Collins doesn't hide behind arcane verbiage and intricate allusions. He uses everyday language with smooth touch of a true craftsman. He's funny, jazzy and an excellent poet. Buy this book.
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on 15 October 2000
I bought this book last year after being introduced to his work by an American friend. I read bits of it and took to his work instantly - he has a subtle sense of humour, and an obvious love of jazz music which every so often creep to the front in his work - you can just hear Cleo Laine sing Three Blind Mice in Billy Collin's poem Cutting Parsley. He performed last week at The Purcell Room in London to a full house and lived up to all my expectations set by this collection. If you have not heard of him before, try him.
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on 24 June 1998
i never used to like poetry, but billy collins turned me on to it. cute isn't quite the right word to describe his poems, but they're definately entertaining. it's like following a train of thought that may seem somewhat far fetched until it all comes together with a little piece of insight given at the end. lovely, lovely poetry!
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on 25 June 1999
Billy Collins' Picnic Lightning has already become the best reading experience of this summer, for me at least. I am not one who normally reads a great deal of poetry and, frankly, found this book almost by accident. But it has become the one book that I am sharing with all my friends. I can't wait to read more of his work
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on 31 October 1998
Picnic Lightning is an extraordinary book, even for Billy Collins. It dances well beyond the surface of things. Those who read Collins and think it ephemeral need look again. . .and again. This book would be a good place for that examination.
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on 21 May 1999
How does he do it? Billy Collins takes everyday experiences and makes them his own, and then he gives them to us in perfect form and tone. An amazing book of verse. Collins is truly one of the best American poets.
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on 18 June 1999
the humor and humility with which Collins approaches his poetry does not detract from its gunslinging effects - often leaving the reader on his back on the floor, feeling his belly for the entry wound...
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