For Billy Collins, former poet laureate of the United States, this is his second collection of 180 poems; the number is intended to provide one poem for each day of the school year, in hopes that a poem a day might be read over the school announcements. To that end, Collins has opted for "clear, contemporary" poems by such poets as Naomi Shihab Nye, Robert Bly, Sharon Olds, Kay Ryan, and many others.
Collins's "Introduction" is interesting. It opens with discussion of a debate between poets Dana Gioia and August Kleinzahler over the merits of Garrison Keillor's collection Good Poems. Collins sides with Gioia in supporting accessible poems--those, like an accessible building, that are "easy to enter." He provides examples of accessible poems and those that are inaccessible. Collins explains his preference for accessible poems as being about "the pleasure that is to be derived from a poem's power to convey a reader from one place to another, its capacity for imaginative travel." He asks: "If a poem has no clear starting place, how can it go anywhere?" He goes on to describe the kinds of poems to which he is partial. It's an interesting discussion that can stimulate readers to think about what criteria they apply in deciding whether they are partial to a poem.
From "By Her Own Hand," by Alice Fulton
My last sound was like the small release
of strings and frets you sense
when a guitarist changes chords.
Enough to let you know the music's made by hand.
From "Why It Often Rains in the Movies," by Lawrence Raab
Because so much consequential thinking
happens in the rain. A steady mist
to recall departures, a bitter downpour
for betrayal. As if the first thing
a man wants to do when he learns his wife
is sleeping with his best friend, and has been
for years, the very first thing
is not to make a drink and drink it,
and make another, but to walk outside
into bad weather
From "From Blossoms," by Li-Young Lee
From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches. . . .
There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.
From "Publication Date," by Franz Wright
One of the few pleasures of writing
is the thought of one's book in the hands of a kind-hearted
intelligent person somewhere. I can't remember what the others are right now.