In Nine Horses, Billy Collins, America’s Poet Laureate for 2001–2003, continues his delicate negotiation between the clear and the mysterious, the comic and the elegiac. The poems in this collection reach dazzling heights while being firmly grounded in the everyday. Traveling by train, lying on a beach, and listening to jazz on the radio are the seemingly ordinary activities whose hidden textures are revealed by Collins’s poetic eye. With clarity, precision, and enviable wit, Collins transforms those moments we too often take for granted into brilliant feats of creative imagination. Nine Horses is a poetry collection to savor and to share.
In Nine Horses, Billy Collins, U.S. poet laureate and author of the bestselling collection Sailing Alone Around the Room, attempts to find beauty in simplicity, but ends up achieving the simply banal. Some poems, such as "Rooms" and "Obituaries," in which readers are given freedom to draw their own conclusions, are memorable, but the language in Nine Horses has little music and thoughts are plainly stated. Animals (mostly mice and little birds) populate this sentimental journey, and they are nearly always personified, resulting in poems that sometimes read like the verse equivalent of a Thomas Kinkade print. Collins's use of the vernacular can be burdensome ("and you are certainly not the pine-scented air. / There is no way you are the pine-scented air"), but some readers may find comfort (a haven perhaps) in the author's warm, safe world. Billy Collins has become an immensely popular poet, and though Nine Horses may remain less than inspiring, its poems are certain not to offend. --Michael Ferch