Billy Collins is widely acknowledged as a prominent player at the table of modern American poetry. And in this new collection, Horoscopes for the Dead, the verbal gifts that earned him the title “America’s most popular poet” are on full display. The poems here cover the usual but everlasting themes of love and loss, life and death, youth and aging, solitude and union. With simple diction and effortless turns of phrase, Collins is at once ironic and elegiac, as in the opening lines of the title poem:
Every morning since you disappeared for good,
I read about you in the newspaper
along with the box scores, the weather, and all the bad news.
Some days I am reminded that today
will not be a wildly romantic time for you . . .
And in this reflection on his own transience:
It doesn’t take much to remind me
what a mayfly I am,
what a soap bubble floating over the children’s party.
Standing under the bones of a dinosaur
in a museum does the trick every time
or confronting in a vitrine a rock from the moon.
Smart, lyrical, and not afraid to be funny, these new poems extend Collins’s reputation as a poet who occupies a special place in the consciousness of readers of poetry, including the many he has converted to the genre.