The only thing that I knew about the book was that it was not very well received by the masses. The reviews on Amazon are uncharacteristically negative and a quick Google search of the book's title will result in a lot of negative comments from dissatisfied poetry enthusiasts. But to me, it was definitely worth the risk of disappointment because-- hey, this is Billy Collins.
This is the first poem in the book:
by Billy Collins
I wonder how you are going to feel
when you find out
that I wrote this instead of you,
that it was I who got up early
to sit in the kitchen
and mention with a pen
the rain-soaked windows,
the ivy wallpaper,
and the goldfish circling in its bowl.
Go ahead and turn aside,
bit your lip and tear out the page,
but, listen—it was just a matter of time
before one of us happened
to notice the unlit candles
and the clock humming on the wall.
Plus, nothing happened that morning—
a song on the radio,
a car whistling along the road outside—
and I was only thinking
about the shakers of salt and pepper
that were standing side by side on a place mat.
I wondered if they had become friends
after all these years
or if they were still strangers to one another
like you and I
who manage to be known and unknown
to each other at the same time—
me at this table with a bowl of pears,
you leaning in a doorway somewhere
near some blue hydrangeas, reading this.
In this poem, Collins answers the all-too-common argument of "I could have written that." His simple reply: I wrote it first, sorry. This will not go down as one of his most lasting or artistic pieces, but to me, this poem is absolutely perfect.