Quantcast

The Rain in Portugal by Billy Collins

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 128 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Rain in Portugal by Billy Collins covers a range of emotion, mirroring the title of the collection with the beauty of Portugal and the sadness of the gloomy rain. Some poems are ripe with his characteristic wit, while others (particularly the one about Seamus Heaney) are elegiac. My favorite poems are those in which delightful moments of observation (anticipated or already known) emerge for the reader.

Such as the opening poem, “1960,” where the narrator is listening to an old jazz album, anticipating the moment when a man’s laugh is heard like a discordant note because the album was recorded live in a club. There is that sense of surprise and familiarity because we’ve all had those moments where someone outside of our group is loud enough to be heard over the hum of conversation or the blare of horns. What has happened to this intruder now that time has passed? And yet, it doesn’t much matter because the moment brings you back to a time you remember fondly.

from "Basho in Ireland" (pg. 12)

I am not exactly like him
because I am not Japanese
and I have no idea what Kyoto is like.

But once, while walking around
the Irish town of Ballyvaughan
I caught myself longing to be in Ballyvaughan.

The sensation of being homesick
for a place that is not my home
while being right in the middle of it.

Collins’ poems are nostalgic and questioning, allowing the reader to see how the ordinary can become extraordinary. How do you become homesick for a place you are visiting at that moment and is not your home? As if something has shifted since your arrival that you can’t quite put your finger on. Isn’t that the mystery of existence?

from "Bravura" (pg. 54)

I will never forget the stunner
modestly titled 'Still Life with Roses,'
which featured so many decanters and mirrors
the result was a corridor of echoing replications.

“Sirens” is another poem that has an unexpected turn, but that little gem you’ll have to discover on your own. Collins is examining notions of being present and how one knows when they are there, in that moment and how long does that last? When do you know it has passed? Do you hold on or let it go? What happens if you do one or the other? Themes like these are strongest in “The Present” and “Bags of Time,” but they recur in each poem throughout the collection, leaving readers with much to consider.

The Rain in Portugal by Billy Collins is beautifully rendered with so much to ponder about how time passes even when we’re not paying attention, and how little attention we pay to the things that pass before us and around us. What would happen if we paid a little more attention? Would we get lost in the infinite possibilities? Don’t miss this collection.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

About the Poet:

Billy Collins, is an American poet, appointed as Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003. In 2016, Collins retired from his position as a Distinguished Professor at Lehman College of the City University of New York after teaching there almost 50 years.

Mailbox Monday #506

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what we received:

National Geographic: The Poetry of US edited by J. Patrick Lewis for review.

Celebrate the gift of language and the vibrant culture of the United States with this collection of classic and never-before-published poetry. Poems are arranged by region, from coast to coast, and among them you’ll find works by Langston Hughes, Dorothy Parker, Robert Frost, Naomi Shihab Nye, Walt Whitman, and more. From the familiar to the surprising, subjects include people, places, landmarks, monuments, nature, and celebrations. Designed for sharing, but geared to younger readers, this beautifully illustrated treasury is a must-have for the whole family.

National Geographic Kids: Fly with Me by Janet Yolen, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, Adam Stemple, and Jason Stemple for review.

This thoughtful and beautifully curated collection of our flying, feathery friends highlights the role birds play in human life from centuries ago to present day. While it’s beautiful, it’s also full of valuable real science about these wondrous creatures. From history and behavior to spotting and photographing, there’s sure to be something for every bird fan in your flock. Young birders will learn all about migration and the importance of habitat conservation. They’ll find stories about bird rescues and fun facts about the fastest, strongest, and tiniest fliers. They’ll also discover the best bird nests, sweet songs to sing, ways to listen for and identify the birds around them, and more. Paired with stunning art and photography and beautiful design, this treasury is sure to become a classic for bird enthusiasts of all ages.

Fly with Me was created to help celebrate Year of the Bird, National Geographic’s 2018 initiative to bring awareness to the plight of birds around the world.

Thomas & Friends: Hero of the Rails, which my parents got for their granddaughter.

Little kids ages 3-6 will love this charming Little Golden Book that captures all the fun, friendship, and adventure of the Thomas the Tank Engine DVD Hero of the Rails. Thomas discovers a long-lost engine and attempts to save him from the scrap yard by repairing him in secret. The plan works perfectly—until that meddlesome engine Spencer gets involved!

Wild Embers by Nikita Gill, which I purchased.

In this magical poetry collection, Nikita Gill unflinchingly explores the fire in every woman and the emotions that lie deep in one’s soul. Featuring rewritten fairytale heroines, goddess wisdom, and verse that burns with magnificent beauty, this raw and powerful collection is an explosion of femininity, empowerment, and personal growth. In these words, readers will find the magnificent energy to spark resistance and revolution.

The Rain in Portugal by Billy Collins, which I purchased.

The Rain in Portugal—a title that admits he’s not much of a rhymer—sheds Collins’s ironic light on such subjects as travel and art, cats and dogs, loneliness and love, beauty and death. His tones range from the whimsical—“the dogs of Minneapolis . . . / have no idea they’re in Minneapolis”—to the elegiac in a reaction to the death of Seamus Heaney. A student of the everyday, Collins here contemplates a weather vane, a still life painting, the calendar, and a child lost at a beach. His imaginative fabrications have Shakespeare flying comfortably in first class and Keith Richards supporting the globe on his head. By turns entertaining, engaging, and enlightening, The Rain in Portugal amounts to another chorus of poems from one of the most respected and familiar voices in the world of American poetry.

What did you receive?

294th Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 294th Virtual Poetry Circle!

Remember, this is just for fun and is not meant to be stressful.

Keep in mind what Molly Peacock’s book suggested.

Look at a line, a stanza, sentences, and images; describe what you like or don’t like; and offer an opinion. If you missed my review of her book, check it out here.

Today’s poem is from Billy Collins, recited by Jackson Hille:

Forgetfulness

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read, never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue
or even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall

well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

What do you think?

Who Are Your Auto-Buy Authors?

6559777749_7831f738fb_o

Hello everyone! The holidays are nearly here, but I have a treat for you! If you haven’t liked the Savvy Verse & Wit Facebook page yet, go do it now.

Beginning Dec. 12 (sometime this afternoon the first pick will be revealed), I’ll reveal one of the books on my Best of 2014 book list, through Dec. 24.

That’s one book from the list per day, with a tidbit about why I loved the book and a link to where you can buy it.

Today, I wanted to talk about those authors we love so much that we buy their books automatically no matter what the subject.  I used to have just a few of those authors, but my list is now growing!  I thought today would be a good day to share not only the older ones on the list, but also the newer ones that have joined the ranks.

My previous list:

  1. Yusef Komunyakaa
  2. Tim O’Brien
  3. Stephen King
  4. Anita Shreve
  5. Amy Tan
  6. Isabel Allende
  7. James Patterson
  8. Anne Rice
  9. Mary Oliver
  10. Billy Collins

My additions to the list:

  1. Beth Kephart
  2. Jeannine Hall Gailey
  3. Jane Odiwe
  4. Syrie James
  5. Abigail Reynolds
  6. Karen White
  7. Beth Hoffman
  8. Jill Mansell
  9. Janel Gradowski
  10. Diana Raab
  11. C.W. Gortner
  12. John Shors

I find it interesting that there are many more female authors being added to my auto-buy list. 

I’m not really sure why so many great female authors are being added to my auto-buy list these days.  It isn’t that I haven’t read some great male authors, but perhaps I need to read more of them to get a true sense of their work and whether I want to buy it automatically no matter the subject.

Do you have auto-buy authors? Who are they?  What attracts you to their work?

Don’t forget to like the Savvy Verse & Wit Facebook page to find out over the next 12 days which books made the 2014 Best list.

Mailbox Monday #139

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch.  This month our host is Life in the Thumb.  Kristi of The Story Siren continues to sponsor her In My Mailboxmeme.  Both of these memes allow bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received this week:

1.  Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington from the author for review and her BookCrossing.com experiment.

2.  The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman from Penguin for review.

3. Horoscopes for the Dead by Billy Collins, which I purchased for myself after I read it from the library.

4. Bloody Valentine by Melissa De La Cruz, which I purchased from Borders.

5. The Boat by Nam Le, which Anna bought for my birthday gift.

What did you receive this week?

Mailbox Monday #137

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch.  This month our host is Life in the Thumb.  Kristi of The Story Siren continues to sponsor her In My Mailbox meme.  Both of these memes allow bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received this week:

From Borders, which is the only local book store in my town and had the best employees who had great recommendations every time I went in; it also was the only store with a good three-to-four shelves of poetry near me and outside the immediate D.C. city:

1.  The Postcard Killers by James Patterson and Liza Marklund, which I bought for my mom’s birthday (good thing she doesn’t read the blog).

2.  Twilight: The Graphic Novel Volume 1 by Stephenie Meyer and adapted by Young Kim

3.  Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan, which I bought to complete the Ireland Reading Challenge and because I just missed out on the TLC Book Tour.

4.  Ideal Cities by Erika Meitner; yes, this is just one of the books I snagged from the poetry section.

5.  The Broken Word by Adam Foulds

6.  Here, Bullet by Brian Turner

7.  Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea by Nikki Giovanni, which I picked up because I loved her selection of poems in (Hip Hop Speaks to Children (my review)

8.  Ballistics by Billy Collins

9. Falling Up by Shel Silverstein

10. Don't Bump the Glump! by Shel Silverstein

11. Runny Babbit by Shel Silverstein

12. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

13. Peter Rabbit's Tale by Beatrix Potter

14. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss; our version says its made with recycled paper.

15. Dr. Seuss's Circus McGurkus 1,2,3! (plush)

From Anna for Wiggles:

16. Winnie the Pooh and Piglet's Book of Opposites

17. Winnie the Pooh All Year Long

18. Adventures of Rusty & Ginger Fox by Tim Ostermeyer

And books that came in the mail for review:

19. The Tree It Was by Sandra Fuhringer

What did you receive this week?

100th Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 100th Virtual Poetry Circle!

It’s hard to believe that there have been 100 meetings of the virtual poetry circle and my wonderful readers are still commenting on poems and taking a shot in the dark about what they mean.  Congrats to you all!

Stay tuned for the big giveaway on June 12 to celebrate 100 VPCs and my 4-year blogiversary.

Now, onto this week’s Virtual Poetry Circle.  Remember, this is just for fun and is not meant to be stressful.

Keep in mind what Molly Peacock’s books suggested. Look at a line, a stanza, sentences, and images; describe what you like or don’t like; and offer an opinion. If you missed my review of her book, check it out here.

Also, sign up for the 2011 Fearless Poetry Reading Challenge because its simple; you only need to read 1 book of poetry.  Please contribute to the growing list of 2011 Indie Lit Award Poetry Suggestions, visit the stops on the National Poetry Month Blog Tour from April.

Today’s poem is from Horoscopes of the Dead by Billy Collins, which I reviewed earlier this week.

Revision (page 84-5)

When I finally pulled onto the shoulder
of a long country road

after driving a few hundred miles
without stopping or even blinking,

I sat there long enough to count
twenty-four cows in a wide, sloping pasture.

Nothing about the scene asked to be changed,
things being just what they were,

and there was even a green hill
looming solidly in the background.

Still, I felt the urge
to find a pencil and edit one of them out,

that swaybacked one standing
in the shade in a far corner of the field.

I was too young then to see
that she was staring into the great mystery

just as intently as her sisters,
her gorgeous, brown and white, philosophic sisters.

Let me know your thoughts, ideas, feelings, impressions. Let’s have a great discussion…pick a line, pick an image, pick a sentence.

I’ve you missed the other Virtual Poetry Circles. It’s never too late to join the discussion.

Horoscopes for the Dead by Billy Collins

Horoscopes for the Dead by Billy Collins, published in 2011 by Random House, is broken into four sections and includes a quote at the beginning from Alan Bennett‘s The Uncommon Reader, “It was the kind of library he had only read about in books.”

Collins’ mater-of-fact tone in these poems treats death and loss as an inevitability, which it is, but at the same time there is a reverence for the dead, dying, and living.  In terms of Bennett’s quote at the beginning, Collins’ phenomenal library is the library of life — the spinning of the dog as it lays down and its movement from one spot to another or the moments in marriage or shopping for a mattress.

From Thieves (page 16-7), “for I was a fellow thief/having stolen for myself this hour, lifting the wedge of it from my daily clock/so I could walk up a wooded hillside/and sit for a while on a rock the size of a car.//” or from Simple Arithmetic (page 32-3), “and gone are my notebook and my pencil/and there I go, too,/erased by my own eraser and blown like shavings off the page.//”, Collins demonstrates the fleeting nature of our time here, how it is borrowed, and how we must make the best of it before it is gone.

Collins’ poetry is accessible as he creates stories and narrations to engage the reader and teach them what he sees.  Like a horoscope, each poem sketches a future, but like horoscopes, the power to make them true or to change them lies in the person meant to live them.  In The Chairs That No One Sits In (page 49-50), “You see them on porches and on lawns/down by the lakeside/usually arranged in pairs implying a couple// . . . It may not be any of my business,/but let us suppose one day/that everyone who placed those vacant chairs//on a veranda or a dock sat down in them/if only for the sake of remembering/what it was they thought deserved//to be viewed from two chairs,/side by side with a table in between./The clouds are high and massive on that day.//”.

The Straightener (page 5-6)

Even as a boy I was a straightener.
On a long table near my window
I kept a lantern, a spyglass, and my tomahawk.

Never tomahawk, lantern, and spyglass.
Always lantern, spyglass, tomahawk.

You could never tell when you would need them,
but that was the order you would need them in.

On my desk: pencils at attention in a cup,
foreign coins stacked by size,

a photograph of my parents,
and under the heavy green blotter,
a note from a girl I was fond of.

These days I like to stack in pyramids
the cans of soup in the pantry
and I keep the white candles in rows like logs of wax.

And if I can avoid doing my taxes
or phoning my talkative aunt
on her eighty-something birthday,

I will use a ruler to measure the space
between the comb and brush on the dresser,
the distance between shakers of salt and pepper.

Today, for example, I will devote my time
to lining up my shoes in the closet,
pair by pair in chronological order

and lining up my shirts on the rack by color
to put off having to tell you, dear,
what I really think and what I now am bound to do.

There are quite a few references to Dante’s The Divine Comedy in these poems, reflecting the journey through hell, purgatory, and paradise.  There are slivers of light from paradise and there are moments of fiery hell, but most of these poems live in the present or the past, examining with understanding, reverence, and sometimes regret that the actions we take in this life cannot be undone.  But Collins also touches upon the tightrope we must walk in relationships with our loved ones.

Overall, Horoscopes for the Dead by Billy Collins is a collection of reflections and predictions for the future, but beyond the attention paid to larger concerns of life, Collins reflects on the smaller moments in time and the joys, frustration, and satisfaction they bring.  A fascinating look at everyday life that makes each moment extraordinary, and a collection that should be added to every library.

 

This is my 14th book for the Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.

 

This is my 13th book for the 2011 Wish I’d Read That Challenge.  I’ve wanted to read this since I learned Collins would have a new book this year.