***Note: I received a free digital review copy of this book from NetGalley and Random House in exchange for an honest review. I have not received compensation for the inclusion of any links for purchase found in this review or on any other page of The Voracious Bibliophile which mentions Musical Tables: Poems, its author, or its publisher.***
My first introduction to Billy Collins and his work was in my high school sophomore English class reading “Introduction to Poetry”. I’m including the text of it below, courtesy of Poetry Foundation:
I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide
or press an ear against its hive.
I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,
or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.
I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.
But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.
They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.
© 1988, 1996 Billy Collins. Source: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46712/introduction-to-poetry.
Since that fateful day, I myself no longer try to “torture a confession” out of the poems I read. I simply spend time with them, ruminating on them. Some poems reveal all of their truths at once while others can take anywhere from years to never to come into the light. The best poems, at least in my opinion, are the ones you can’t explain but that make you feel something deep stirring within you.
All of that said, I think that Musical Tables is one of his best collections yet. More than 125 new poems are contained therein and all of them are short. If brevity is indeed the soul of wit, there’s enough wit in these 176 pages to confound King Solomon. Don’t expect any of the poems in this collection to smack you over the head with their profundity. While some of them are indeed deeply insightful, oftentimes whimsical and playful, none of them are preeners. They simply stand in front of the reader naked and say, “This is what you get, like it or not.” Some made me chuckle. Others made me pause ever so briefly to think. It’s exactly that brand of self-effacing yet utterly winning that keeps me coming back to Billy Collins and his work through the years.
While I can’t share the text of them here, not just yet anyway, I will tell you that my favorite poems from Collins’s newest collection are (in no particular order): “The Dead of Winter”, “Headstones”, “The Sociologist”, “Twisting Time”, “Eyes”, and “Orphans”.
Musical Tables: Poems is due to be released on November 15th, 2022 by Random House Publishing Group – Random House and is available to preorder wherever books are sold.
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