Thursday Book Feature: The Poetry of Billy Collins

In celebration of National Poetry Month, I’m reviewing two collections by one of my favorite poets, Billy Collins. . Some of you may remember that I reviewed The Rain in Portugal last year, but I’ve since read it again, and it’s worth a second look.

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Aimless Love: A Selection of Poems
Copyright 2012.

The poems in this collection provide slice-of-life and often humorous reflections on such topics as nature, religion, and other poets. In “The Revenant,” a deceased dog talks to his owner from the grave. In “The Lanyard,” the author describes how he made a lanyard for his mother, who did a lot more for him. In “Suggestion Box,” he considers writing a poem about all the people who give him poem ideas. The title poem is about unconditional love. Some poems here are previously published while others are new.

If you’re a poet, Billy Collins might inspire you. After reading “The Revenant,” I wrote a poem in which one of our cats speaks to my father from her grave. “Istanbul,” in which the poet shares his experience with a Turkish bath, inspired me to write about a similar experience I had in a California spa run by Koreans. Even if you’re not a fan of poetry, you might enjoy Billy Collins’ work, since most of it reads more like prose, although it looks like poetry on the page.

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The Rain in Portugal: Poems
Copyright 2016.

In the author’s usual humorous style, poems in this collection reflect on jazz, writing poetry, and other subjects. In “Lucky Cat,” Collins suggests betting with other humans on the actions of felines. In “Only Child,” he longs for a sister to help care for his aging parents. In “The Bard in Flight,” he imagines what Shakespeare would do on an airplane. The collection’s title comes from the poem “On Rhyme,” in which he reflects on such common sayings as “The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain.”

I heard about this latest collection when he appeared on A Prairie Home Companion. . Of course he read a few of his poems, and I was hooked. Needless to say, I downloaded the book and spent a delightful evening reading the poems aloud to myself.

According to an author’s note at the beginning, the electronic version of this book is designed so that formatting isn’t affected when the font size of the type is changed. Words at the ends of lines that are moved down when text is enlarged are indented to indicate they’re part of the same line. This didn’t make any difference to me, since I read the book in Braille, but I’m glad those with low vision can enjoy the poems the way they were written. These poems are meant to be recited, preferably by
Billy Collins, but I enjoyed reading them aloud.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
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Thursday Book Feature: The Christmas Train

Don’t ask why my group chose a Christmas book to discuss in March. At least you’ll have something to put on your December reading list. Merry Christmas, three months late or nine months early, depending on how you look at it.

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The Christmas Train
Baldacci, David.
Copyright 2002.

After being put on the no-fly list as a result of a confrontation with the airlines, journalist Tom decides to travel by train across the country from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles and write about it. In L.A., he plans to spend Christmas with his current girlfriend, Lilia, an actress. Along the way, he meets an eccentric old lady, a retired priest, a movie director, and then his former girlfriend Eleanor. Things get even more interesting when Lilia boards the train in Kansas City. Other events including the discovery of a naked man sleeping in one of the coach cars, a series of robberies, and a blizzard make this a hilarious, heartwarming holiday tale with two interesting revelations at the end.

This was another book that was hard to put down. I was right there on the train with Tom, Eleanor, and the other characters, yet thankful to be safe in my recliner at home when the train encountered an avalanche. I definitely recommend The Christmas Train as a great holiday read.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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The Case of the Hidden Water Meter

I recently received a letter that said it was time for me to have a new water meter installed. Our fair city of Sheridan, Wyoming, in its so-called infinite wisdom, has determined that each resident must have a new water meter installed in order to continue receiving service. Fortunately, they’re paying for the installation, but my problem is I don’t know where my old water meter is. I have a visual impairment, and I don’t even know what a water meter looks like.

I’ve made an appointment. Someone is coming tomorrow. Surely that person will want to install the new meter in the same location as the old, but at the moment, I don’t know where that is. I’ve never had to worry about this before. Since no one has come to the door with the intention of reading the meter, I assumed it was outside, but where?

My late husband Bill is probably laughing at me from above. Having bought and rented twenty houses in his day, although he was totally blind, I’m sure he made a point of finding out the location of the water meter and other essential items.

Today, my homemaker from the local senior center is coming for her weekly visit. I can only hope she can find the lost meter. If not, I’ll just have to admit to the person who comes to install the new one that even though I’ve lived in this house for over ten years, I don’t know where the old meter is. It’s either that or sing this song.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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Saturday Song: The Saga Begins by Weird Al Yankovic

Let’s start the New Year out with some humor. This song, in the style of The Beach Boys, should teach you everything you ever wanted to know about your innards. Enjoy, and have a great Saturday.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

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Saturday Song: Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer by Elmo & Patsy

In 1973 after we moved from Tucson, Arizona, to Sheridan Wyoming, my grandmother, who lived close by, often came to our house Christmas Eve. No doubt she had too much to drink, but she somehow managed to return home in her maroon Cadillac without encountering any reindeer. The grandmother in this song was less fortunate. Enjoy, and have a great Saturday.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

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What If There Were No B’s

Thanks to Jimmie Kepler for inspiring this post. In this little piece he wrote for his granddaughter, he reflects on what life would be like without the letter C. Well, have you ever thought of what life would be like without the letter B?

For reakfast this morning, I would have had oatmeal, orange juice, and an anana. Because of my limited vision, I would e writing this log post in raille. When I go out later, I would put on my oots. At the end of the day, I would stretch out in my recliner with a good ook.

You see, life wouldn’t be the same without the letter B, either. In fact, every letter of the alphabet is important.

Now it’s your turn. Pick a letter of the alphabet and write about what your life would be like without it. If you’re an elementary school teacher, you might want to try this activity with your students. In any case, please feel free to share your results in the comments field. Have a lessed day.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

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Saturday Song: I Like Beer by Tom T. Hall

This was popular in 1976 when I was in the eighth grade at Central Junior High, a public school here in Sheridan, Wyoming. One day during home economics class, a bunch of us girls started singing the chorus. Our teacher was a stern woman who eventually told my mother she couldn’t teach me with my visual disability. She merely rolled her eyes and said, “Grow up.” In case you’re wondering, I myself am more partial to Dr. Pepper than beer. Enjoy this live performance, and have a great Saturday.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

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