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Horoscopes for the Dead by Billy Collins

Pub Date:

Horoscopes for the Dead
Billy Collins

Random House
3-20-12
Hardcover/128 pages
ISBN: 978-0812975628
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". . . a melancholic tone with wit and charm . . ."

Former United States Poet Laureate Billy Collins’ forte is his earthy narrative poems that focus on the familiar. In his recent book, “Horoscopes for the Dead,” Collins intertwines a melancholic tone with wit and charm as he reacts to death and his relationship with nature.

In the title poem, Collins thinks daily of his departed friend: “Every morning since you disappeared for good/ I read about you in the daily paper/ along with the box scores, the weather and all the bad news.” This complex poem pushes back and forth in ten stanzas daily prophesies and his own role as a survivor. Metaphorically he tells his friend to stay “straight up from earth” where he “ . pierced the enormous circle of the zodiac.”

In “Grave” he asks his parents who are in “joined” graves what they think of his new glasses. He quips in his poem “Hell ” that it can be compared to “shopping for a mattress at a mall” with a salesman insisting you test the “jovial kings,” “sensible queens” or the “cheerless singles.” He contemplates how Dante might have included fluorescent lights “had he been able to lie on his back between us here today”

Although his wildly popular poetry draws on ordinary events, his work has uplifting intellectual twists. In his conversations with himself he observes clouds and a bee on a flower while expressing gratitude for the act of just being. He even thanks those who died when he was born who made room for him. Collins’ writings are accessible, memorable and evoke compassion and honest delight with ourselves and the world around us.

Reviewer: Kate Padilla