I am hardly unbiased when it comes to this poet. I’ve always admired Collins’s work, and became fully enamored of it when I heard him read some of his own poems on Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion. Collins has a distinctive voice with a charming amount of sentiment, without being overly sentimental.
Old Man Eating Alone in a Chinese Restaurant is reminiscent of Hemingway’s A Clean Well-Lighted Place. It’s just a few stanzas, this being my favorite:
And I should mention the light
which falls through the big windows this time of day
italicizing everything it touches —
the plates and tea pots, the immaculate tablecloths,
In Grave he beautifully describes silence:
one of the one hundred kinds of silence
according to Chinese belief,
each one distinct from the others,
and the differences being so faint
that only a few special monks
were able to tell them all apart.
Then there is his humor. His poem Hell opens thus:
I have a feeling that it is much worse
than shopping for a mattress at a mall,
of greater duration without question,
and there is no random pitchforking here,
no licking flames to fear,
only this cavernous store with its maze of bedding.
This is an incredibly enjoyable collection of poetry from a great American voice.
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Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (October 22, 2013)