All Aboard the ARC: Musical Tables: Poems by Billy Collins

***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.***

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Review

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.

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.

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 by Billy Collins

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.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

All Aboard the ARC: Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head: Poems by Warsan Shire

Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head: Poems by Warsan Shire

***Note: I received a free digital review copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.***

Like all of Shire’s work, this collection explores themes of immigration, Black womanhood, Muslim identity, mental health, and sexual violence.

Herein the body is more than its corporeal form. It is a border wall limned with barbed wire, a boat tossed on a treacherous sea between nations, a forest aflame, a line of demarcation, a political statement, a war zone, a site of both refuge and terror, a haunted geography, and a mother’s scream, beautiful and terrible. Herein is a voice forged in fire. Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head is perhaps 2022’s most anticipated poetry collection and I for one can say it was worth the long wait.

Like a lot of people, my first experience with Warsan Shire and her poetry came vis-à-vis the visual album for Beyoncé’s Lemonade. For those of you who haven’t watched Lemonade, it is composed of eleven chapters, corresponding with the first eleven songs on the album with names like “Intuition” (for “Pray You Catch Me”) and “Redemption” (for “All Night”). In the interstitial spaces between songs, Beyoncé recites pieces of poetry and prose by Warsan Shire. The British-Somali wunderkind, then relatively-unknown outside of the U.K., was catapulted into the spotlight.

Immediately after listening to Lemonade, I bought Shire’s 2011 chapbook, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth, which I’ve read several times now. In 2015, she released a chapbook through flipped eye publishing called Her Blue Body, and if you have a copy then you’d be well-advised to hold on tight to it for dear life because I’ve been scouring the Internet for years in search of a copy. I once saw a used copy online for more than $1,000, and if I’d had the money I’d have bought it no questions asked.

Like all of Shire’s work, this collection explores themes of immigration, Black womanhood, Muslim identity, mental health, and sexual violence. I can’t imagine anyone reading it and leaving it unaffected if not completely transformed. Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head is not to be missed.

Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head: Poems is due to be released by Random House Trade Paperbacks on March 1st, 2022 and is now available to preorder wherever books are sold. Her previous chapbook, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth, is available to purchase wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.