Aimless Love

New and Selected Poems Trade Paperback

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

“America’s favorite poet.”—The Wall Street Journal

From the two-term Poet Laureate of the United States Billy Collins comes his first volume of new and selected poems in twelve years. Aimless Love combines fifty new poems with generous selections from his four most recent books—Nine Horses, The Trouble with Poetry, Ballistics, and Horoscopes for the Dead. Collins’s unmistakable voice, which brings together plain speech with imaginative surprise, is clearly heard on every page, reminding us how he has managed to enrich the tapestry of contemporary poetry and greatly expand its audience. His work is featured in top literary magazines such as The New Yorker, Poetry, and The Atlantic, and he sells out reading venues all across the country. Appearing regularly in The Best American Poetry series, his poems appeal to readers and live audiences far and wide and have been translated into more than a dozen languages. By turns playful, ironic, and serious, Collins’s poetry captures the nuances of everyday life while leading the reader into zones of inspired wonder. In the poet’s own words, he hopes that his poems “begin in Kansas and end in Oz.” Touching on the themes of love, loss, joy, and poetry itself, these poems showcase the best work of this “poet of plenitude, irony, and Augustan grace” (The New Yorker).

Envoy
 
Go, little book,
out of this house and into the world,
 
carriage made of paper rolling toward town
bearing a single passenger
beyond the reach of this jittery pen
and far from the desk and the nosy gooseneck lamp.
 
It is time to decamp,
put on a jacket and venture outside,
time to be regarded by other eyes,
bound to be held in foreign hands.
 
So off you go, infants of the brain,
with a wave and some bits of fatherly advice:
 
stay out as late as you like,
don’t bother to call or write,
and talk to as many strangers as you can.

Praise for Aimless Love
 
“[Billy Collins] is able, with precious few words, to make me cry. Or laugh out loud. He is a remarkable artist. To have such power in such an abbreviated form is deeply inspiring.”—J. J. Abrams, The New York Times Book Review
 
“His work is poignant, straightforward, usually funny and imaginative, also nuanced and surprising. It bears repeated reading and reading aloud.”The Plain Dealer
 
“Collins has earned almost rock-star status. . . . He knows how to write layered, subtly witty poems that anyone can understand and appreciate—even those who don’t normally like poetry. . . . The Collins in these pages is distinctive, evocative, and knows how to make the genre fresh and relevant.”—The Christian Science Monitor
 
“Collins’s new poems contain everything you've come to expect from a Billy Collins poem. They stand solidly on even ground, chiseled and unbreakable. Their phrasing is elegant, the humor is alive, and the speaker continues to stroll at his own pace through the plainness of American life.”The Daily Beast
 
“[Collins’s] 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.”—The Times Leader


From the Hardcover edition.

Praise

“America’s favorite poet.”—The Wall Street Journal

“[Billy Collins] is able, with precious few words, to make me cry. Or laugh out loud. He is a remarkable artist. To have such power in such an abbreviated form is deeply inspiring.”—J. J. Abrams, The New York Times Book Review
 
“His work is poignant, straightforward, usually funny and imaginative, also nuanced and surprising. It bears repeated reading and reading aloud.”The Plain Dealer
 
“Collins has earned almost rock-star status. . . . He knows how to write layered, subtly witty poems that anyone can understand and appreciate—even those who don’t normally like poetry. . . . The Collins in these pages is distinctive, evocative, and knows how to make the genre fresh and relevant.”—The Christian Science Monitor
 
“Collins’s new poems contain everything you've come to expect from a Billy Collins poem. They stand solidly on even ground, chiseled and unbreakable. Their phrasing is elegant, the humor is alive, and the speaker continues to stroll at his own pace through the plainness of American life.”The Daily Beast
 
“[Collins’s] 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.”—The Times Leader
 
“Former poet laureate and reader favorite Collins, the maestro of the running-brook line and the clever pivot, celebrates the resonance and absurdity of what might be called the poet’s attention-surfeit disorder. . . . But Collins’s droll wit is often a diversionary tactic, so that when he strikes you with the hard edge of his darker visions, you reel.”Booklist

“A stellar jumping-off point . . . a joyride through all layers of his approach from 2002 to the present, which should not only please his current fans, but inspire many others to dive into Mr. Collins’s work, headfirst.”The Rumpus


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

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From the Hardcover edition.

Reader's Guide

1. Billy Collins has said, “In a poem you have the greatest imaginative freedom possible in language. You have no allegiance to plot, consistency, plausibility, character development, chronology.” Do you agree or disagree? How do you find yourself reading a book of poetry differently than you do a novel? Did you find yourself creating narrative connections between poems in Aimless Love?

2. What patterns can you identify in Collins’s writing? Are there images, subjects, or themes that you see him returning to again and again? What specific images stood out for you?

3. Collins skillfully moves between many emotional tones in his work, from light-hearted to somber, from ironic to sincere, from astonishment and wonder to remorse and grief. How does he achieve such scope in just a few lines? Find your favorite examples of poems with a range of tones.

4. When reading poetry, do you assume it is the writer speaking? Who else might it be? Discuss the role of autobiography in poetry.

5. Collins has said that in his poems he is “speaking to someone I’m trying to get to fall in love with me.” How does Collins get this idea across on the page?

6. Read “Litany.” Now read “Litany” out loud. Now listen to Collins read “Litany”: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56Iq3PbSWZY). Finally, watch three-year-old Samuel recite “Litany”: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVu4Me_n91Y). What did you hear differently? Did your own interpretation of the poem change?

7. Collins has been called “America’s favorite poet.” What do you think defines popularity in poetry? Do you perceive reading poetry as hard work? Did Aimless Love change that perception?

8. Robert Frost said, “A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom.” Collins hopes that his poems “begin in Kansas and end in Oz.” What do you think each poet means? Do the two statements contradict each other?

9. Collins employs epigraphs of all kinds, including a reference from The Notebooks of Robert Frost in “The Four-Moon Planet” and a line from an article on printing in “Flock.” Did the epigraphs change your reading experience? How? In what other ways does Collins engage with poetry and other literature in his work?

10. Collins wrote his September 11–themed poem, “The Names,” when he was U.S. Poet Laureate of the United States. Do you think poetry as commemoration still serves an important role in society today?

11. Look at the Acknowledgments. Have you read any of those publications? How do you interact with poetry in your everyday life?

12. We speak of the gift of poetry. What does that mean to you? Identify three people in your life and choose a poem from Aimless Love that you would like to share with them.

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