Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

"Ballistics" by Billy Collins (Picador, 2008)

110 pages of poems from Crazyhorse, LRB, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Poetry, etc. "The Golden Years" is a sonnet but most of the other poems poems comprise 3-lined or 4-lined stanzas. I think there's some attempt to break lines between clauses, and to have stanza breaks at ends of sentences, but the surprizes that he offers (often of the persona finally materialising as the poem's author) are well within the scope of conventional prose.

Overall I was hoping for more from this. Perhaps more variety of pace, or type of twist. One becomes habituated to the shape of the narrative arcs, the winks. By the time I reached p.65 and read a stanza beginning "All I see is me attending your burial/ or you attending mine," I wasn't surprised that the rest of the stanza spelt out for me "depending on who gets to go first."

And the twists aren't always worth the set-up. E.g.

I think what I am really saying is that language
is better than reality, so it doesn't have
to be bath-time for you to enjoy
all the Bathtub Families as they float in the air around your head

"This Little Piggy Went to Market" on the other hand would have been fine were it only the final stanza. "Adage" was fun too - "Love is not as simple as getting up/ on the wrong side of the bed wearing the emperor's clothes" and "love is the early bird who is better late than never".

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