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  • Nine Horses
  • Written by Billy Collins
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  • Nine Horses
  • Written by Billy Collins
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Poems

Written by Billy CollinsAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Billy Collins

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On Sale: August 10, 2011
Pages: | ISBN: 978-1-58836-278-0
Published by : Random House Random House Group
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

In Nine Horses, Billy Collins, America’s Poet Laureate for 2001–2003, continues his delicate negotiation between the clear and the mysterious, the comic and the elegiac. The poems in this collection reach dazzling heights while being firmly grounded in the everyday. Traveling by train, lying on a beach, and listening to jazz on the radio are the seemingly ordinary activities whose hidden textures are revealed by Collins’s poetic eye. With clarity, precision, and enviable wit, Collins transforms those moments we too often take for granted into brilliant feats of creative imagination. Nine Horses is a poetry collection to savor and to share.

Excerpt

i.

The Country
I wondered about you
when you told me never to leave
a box of wooden, strike-anywhere matches
lying around the house because the mice

might get into them and start a fire.
But your face was absolutely straight
when you twisted the lid down on the round tin
where the matches, you said, are always stowed.

Who could sleep that night?
Who could whisk away the thought
of the one unlikely mouse
padding along a cold water pipe

behind the floral wallpaper
gripping a single wooden match
between the needles of his teeth?
Who could not see him rounding a corner,

the blue tip scratching against a rough-hewn beam,
the sudden flare, and the creature
for one bright, shining moment
suddenly thrust ahead of his time—

now a fire-starter, now a torchbearer
in a forgotten ritual, little brown druid
illuminating some ancient night.
Who could fail to notice,

lit up in the blazing insulation,
the tiny looks of wonderment on the faces
of his fellow mice, onetime inhabitants
of what once was your house in the country?

Velocity
In the club car that morning I had my notebook
open on my lap and my pen uncapped,
looking every inch the writer
right down to the little writer’s frown on my face,

but there was nothing to write
about except life and death
and the low warning sound of the train whistle.

I did not want to write about the scenery
that was flashing past, cows spread over a pasture,
hay rolled up meticulously—
things you see once and will never see again.

But I kept my pen moving by drawing
over and over again
the face of a motorcyclist in profile—

for no reason I can think of—
a biker with sunglasses and a weak chin,
leaning forward, helmetless,
his long thin hair trailing behind him in the wind.

I also drew many lines to indicate speed,
to show the air becoming visible
as it broke over the biker’s face

the way it was breaking over the face
of the locomotive that was pulling me
toward Omaha and whatever lay beyond Omaha
for me and all the other stops to make

before the time would arrive to stop for good.
We must always look at things
from the point of view of eternity,

the college theologians used to insist,
from which, I imagine, we would all
appear to have speed lines trailing behind us
as we rush along the road of the world,

as we rush down the long tunnel of time—
the biker, of course, drunk on the wind,
but also the man reading by a fire,

speed lines coming off his shoulders and his book,
and the woman standing on a beach
studying the curve of horizon,
even the child asleep on a summer night,

speed lines flying from the posters of her bed,
from the white tips of the pillowcases,
and from the edges of her perfectly motionless body.


From the Hardcover edition.
Billy Collins

About Billy Collins

Billy Collins - Nine Horses

Photo © Joann Carney

Billy Collins is the author of ten collections of poetry, including Horoscopes for the Dead, Ballistics, The Trouble with Poetry, Nine Horses, Sailing Alone Around the Room, Questions About Angels, The Art of Drowning, and Picnic, Lightning. He is also the editor of Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry, 180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Every Day, and Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds. A Distinguished Professor of English at Lehman College of the City University of New York, and Senior Distinguished Fellow at the Winter Park Institute of Rollins College, he was Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003 and Poet Laureate of New York State from 2004 to 2006.
Praise

Praise

“A poet of plentitude, irony, and Augustan grace.”
—The New Yorker

“A sort of poet not seen since Robert Frost.”
—The Boston Globe

“It is difficult not to be charmed by Collins, and that in itself is a remarkable literary accomplishment.”
—The New York Review of Books

“One appeal of the typical Collins poem is that it’s less able to help you memorize it than to help you remember,
for a little while anyway, your own life.”
—The New York Times Book Review

  • Nine Horses by Billy Collins
  • October 14, 2003
  • Poetry
  • Random House Trade Paperbacks
  • $16.00
  • 9780375755200

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