The Art Of Drowning


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Survivors would have us believe in a brilliance here, some bolt of truth forking across the water, an ultimate Light before all the lights go out, dawning on you with all its megalithic tonnage. But if something does flash before your eyes as you go under, it will probably be a fish, a quick blur of curved silver darting away, having nothing to do with your life or your death. The tide will take you, or the lake will accept it all as you sink toward the weedy disarray of the bottom, leaving behind what you have already forgotten, the surface, now overrun with the high travel of clouds.

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Some books you have to sit with for a while after reading for a real appreciation to sink in. This volume of poems by Billy Collins, 2-time United States poet laureate, was one such book for me. As far as reading poems go, it is smooth and cool, paced nicely, and has no ponderous obstacles of personal-life allusions and intentional obscurantism sitting heavy in the path of interpretation. He feels much like someone helping you discover the wonders around your hometown. Collins is a good writer, but it was just okay for me.

Nov 03, Joanne Merriam rated it really liked it. Billy Collins has visited my city a number of times in the past two years, including giving a two-day writing workshop which I was fortunate to attend, as well as several readings. I enjoy his poetry most read aloud and in person, where his charismatic reality distortion field is in full effect and I as an audience member forget that I don't like easy poetry with easy conclusions provided pre-packaged for me, so that in the end I must grudgingly admit that I quite enjoy his work despite all my t Billy Collins has visited my city a number of times in the past two years, including giving a two-day writing workshop which I was fortunate to attend, as well as several readings.

I enjoy his poetry most read aloud and in person, where his charismatic reality distortion field is in full effect and I as an audience member forget that I don't like easy poetry with easy conclusions provided pre-packaged for me, so that in the end I must grudgingly admit that I quite enjoy his work despite all my theories about what poetry should be. If you like his poetry you'll certainly like this collection, which is, I think, quite representative of his work and has the advantage for me of containing my favourite of his poems, "Canada" which readers can preview at The Poetry Foundation's website, where it is reproduced about summers in Canada in his boyhood, which sound pretty similar to my own summers in Canada as a child.

I think what Billy Collins does best is remind us of things we already know. Nov 18, Nolan Alber rated it it was amazing Shelves: great-reads-for-young-adults. A rating system seems especially arbitrary for poetry. View 1 comment. Sep 08, KarmA rated it really liked it.

Billy Collins

If this book only contained the titular poem it would be enough. I love the poem that much. I love the themes it explores -- how it touches on our fears, our memories, our self-inflated thoughts of the self, our egos reduced to the scales of a fish, and all of it wrapped in the familiar, humorous tone that Collins gives to even the grandest or gravest of themes he explores.

I found a youtube video of the poem , an animated short, narrated by the author. And here, for your enjoyment, the poem its If this book only contained the titular poem it would be enough. And here, for your enjoyment, the poem itself: The Art Of Drowning I wonder how it all got started, this business about seeing your life flash before your eyes while you drown, as if panic, or the act of submergence, could startle time into such compression, crushing decades in the vice of your desperate, final seconds. After falling off a steamship or being swept away in a rush of floodwaters, wouldn't you hope for a more leisurely review, an invisible hand turning the pages of an album of photographs- you up on a pony or blowing out candles in a conic hat.

How about a short animated film, a slide presentation? Your life expressed in an essay, or in one model photograph? Wouldn't any form be better than this sudden flash? Your whole existence going off in your face in an eyebrow-singeing explosion of biography- nothing like the three large volumes you envisioned. Survivors would have us believe in a brilliance here, some bolt of truth forking across the water, an ultimate Light before all the lights go out, dawning on you with all its megalithic tonnage.

But if something does flash before your eyes as you go under, it will probably be a fish, a quick blur of curved silver darting away, having nothing to do with your life or your death. The tide will take you, or the lake will accept it all as you sink toward the weedy disarray of the bottom, leaving behind what you have already forgotten, the surface, now overrun with the high travel of clouds. Oct 18, Beth rated it really liked it Shelves: poetry , contemporary , to-buy.

While a number of the poems in this book have been recently re-published in the compilation Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems , this collection is in and of itself a gem. Billy Collins' poetry is both wry and genuine, and always full of wit.


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Each poem is clear and accessible, yet it brings us a moment of truth, often stemming from something quite ordinary: a gospel song on the radio, a stroll through a museum, a good meal. The poet has a gift for humor. Even the title poem in t While a number of the poems in this book have been recently re-published in the compilation Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems , this collection is in and of itself a gem. Even the title poem in this collection which seems as though it would be rather morbid draws forth a chuckle.

It deals with the phenomenon of one's life flashing before one's eyes, moments before death. These poems come back to the human level -- the level of laughter, of wonder, of curiosity. Or Venus borne over the froth of waves on a pink half shell. Or an odalisque by Delacroix, veils lapping at your nakedness. You are more like the sunlight of Edward Hopper, especially when it slants against the eastern side of a white clapboard house in the early hours of the morning, with no figure standing at a window in a violet bathrobe, just the sunlight, the columns of the front porch, and the long shadows they throw down upon the dark green lawn, baby.

View all 3 comments. Aug 02, Florence rated it really liked it. This slim volume of poems by a former US Poet Laureate appealed to me. Most of the poems dealt with everyday, commom themes. Occasionally, there was a line or two of truly beautiful or playfully droll imagery. Literary references, which usually are beyond my knowledge are few.

Here's an example from one entitled "Influence": " I saw the doves milling around in the snow, their legs as thin as pencil leads. Here he is in "The Biography of a Cloud": " I prefer a wayside bench, ensnared by vines, to the dark aisles of a library, a place to watch them inch across the sky, caravans plying their ancient trade routes" One more example please indulge me. This one is called "Thesaurus". Collins is expressing his displeasure to words that are conventionally paired.

Shelves: poetry. I'm about as unqualified to comment on poetry as a person can be.


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I don't read a lot of it, and I find the habitual need for cracking almost any book and reading aloud from said book displayed by most poetry fans to be Nevertheless, I found Billy Collins surprisingly easy to read and enjoyable. His poems were refreshingly free of the pretentiousness I admittedly in my ignorance ordinarily associate with poetry in general. While I'll never be a fan of poetry, Collins ma I'm about as unqualified to comment on poetry as a person can be. While I'll never be a fan of poetry, Collins managed to open a few closed doors for me with this book.

Aug 27, Dave rated it really liked it. I always read books of poetry too fast, especially if I like them. Like eating all of the candy in one sitting. And I never really loved my favorite poems at first read. So I liked this very much and need to digest before I know how I'll really feel about all of these. Jun 04, Cindy rated it really liked it. Dec 09, Joshua rated it it was amazing. Jan 21, Kendall rated it really liked it. One of my favorite of Collins'. Quiet, melancholic, but still fun in his way.

The Art Of Drowning Poem by Billy Collins - Poem Hunter Comments

Jun 15, Justin rated it really liked it. Billy Collins writes good, solid, unashamed, every day poetry. Mar 09, Bethany rated it it was amazing Shelves: mrs-thomas. Ah, I remember this poem! My seventh grade English teacher, Mrs. Thomas, gave each kid in the class one of three different poems that we had to annotate thoroughly.

Thomas was the best. Billy Collins is so reliable. Again I enjoyed his word play. A number of rememberable poems. Dec 14, Jamie rated it really liked it Shelves: , poetry. This is the first Billy Collins poetry I've read, and I really enjoyed it. It felt like he was taking me for a walk through a museum - how he could take a single image and create a poem out of it. It often felt like a dance as well, from the silly to the serious.

I enjoyed his playfulness. I hope I happen upon more of his writing. Sep 26, Matt rated it it was amazing.


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  • The Art Of Drowning - Poem by Billy Collins?

Maybe it's because it's my first foray into the realm of poetry but I found this collection to be very special special in the way that you value a hand made gift from a friend who knows you inside and out. Billy Collins writes in such a readily accessible way, I couldn't help but fall in love with his work. Aug 17, Alan rated it really liked it. Thanks once again to the Forbes Library for running the summer reading passport.

One of the categories was to read a book in a genre that you do not normally read.

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I chose this wonderful collection of poetry to satisfy this challenge. Collins captures the essential beauty inherent in the commonplace through his accessible and lovely words. Jun 03, Reed rated it it was amazing. Another superb collection of poems -- most of them readable and understandable. Some of them absolutely change how I think Apr 27, Ava rated it it was amazing. Good Quick read, highly recommend for people into poetry. Jun 10, Marion Friedman rated it really liked it. Lovely, fresh, accessible poetry. Mar 15, Rachel Reiff rated it it was amazing Shelves: already-readbpicks.

I didn't like poetry until I read Billy Collins. Profoundly simple, touching, funny. Mar 05, Alexis Gamboa rated it liked it. Relaxing, illustrative and not at all pretentious.

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