He lets the bow release as the arrow descends, time and time again, only to miss the mark. This is “Aimless Love,” Billy Collins’ latest poetry collection, which proves that while Cupid may be remiss, Collins never falters.
The collection stems from Collins’ poem, “Aimless Love,” which first appeared in his 2002 collection “Nine Horses.” In a monumental way, the poem binds the collection’s theme together with this verse echoing through: “But my heart is always propped up / in a field on its tripod, / ready for the next arrow.”
The work consists of selections from Collins’ previous collections, “Nine Horses,” “The Trouble with Poetry,” Ballistics” and “Horoscopes for the Dead,” in addition to 51 new poems. As a United States and New York State Poet Laureate, Collins has been dazzling the literary world for decades, beginning in 1977 with his first compilation, “Pokerface.”
Whereas Collins evoked readers with playfulness in his earlier works, his latest demonstrates a more solemn undertone. Fortunately, Collins’ dry humor is still exceedingly evident and ironic, albeit a little darker this time around. His poetry is crisp and clear – each word like dancing – quick, quick, slow. Without much ambiguity, Collins is often upfront about each poem’s subject matter.
There is an ease and readability to the collection, a notable aspect that has always been apparent in his works. New standout pieces of the collection include “Animal Behavior,” “Orient,” “Irish Poetry,” and “Dining Alone.” In “Orient,” Collins writes: “You are turning me / like someone turning a globe in her hand, / and yes, I have another side / like a China no one, / not even me, has ever seen. / So describe to me what’s there, / say what you are looking at / and I will close my eyes / so I can see it too, / the oxcarts and all the lively flags. / I love the sound of your voice / like a little saxophone / telling me what I could never know / unless I dug a hole all the way down / through the core of myself.”
There is a beauty to poetry, whether complex or punchy. But, what separates Collins from his contemporaries is the foundation. His poetry presents simple observations, which create a shared experience between Collins and his readers, while further revealing how he takes life’s everyday humdrum experiences and makes them vibrant.
While Collins’ previous collections have already validated his brilliance and staying power as a poet, he continues to reveal an ever-growing maturity. “Aimless Love” offers the best of both worlds by bridging his early voice to one without boundaries.
‘Aimless Love’ by Billy Collins Rating: W W W W