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: Follow Your Dog

Follow Your Dog: A Story of Love and Trust

by Ann Chiappetta

Copyright 2017.

The author, blind as a result of retinitis pigmentosa, shares her experiences with a succession of dogs that influenced her life, focusing on her first guide dog, Verona. She describes her turbulent childhood: her parents’ divorce, her father berating her when she broke or lost her glasses, and how she found a way to escape through nature and books.

She talks about the dogs she and her husband and children had as pets before Verona came along. She explains the process of applying for a dog through Guiding Eyes for the Blind in Yorktown Heights, New York, about a forty-minute drive from her home in New Rochelle: why she was rejected the first time, how she applied to other schools and was eventually accepted by Guiding Eyes for the Blind and started training in January of 2008.

She then describes the arduous twenty-six day process of learning to work with Verona: her apprehension and excitement on the day she first met her, the full days of walking routes in bitter winter weather, the exhilaration upon graduation. She explains the adjustments her family had to make since Verona wasn’t a pet.

She then describes reactions of others to her dog and how Verona impacted her life until 2015 when she was compelled to retire her. She explains how she returned to Guiding Eyes for the Blind and obtained Bailey, her second dog, describing how Verona adjusted to Bailey doing the work she once did. She then talks about how Verona became a certified therapy dog. Inserted at strategic points throughout the book are essays, poems, and blog posts, and at the end, a list of resources for those interested in applying for a guide dog.

I met Ann over a year ago through Behind Our Eyes, a group of writers with disabilities. I’ve always enjoyed reading her material.

I like dogs but am not interested in getting a guide dog. For one thing, I do really well with a cane, so I don’t think it’s necessary for me to have one. For another, they’re a lot of work, as illustrated in the book, whereas with a cane, when you arrive at your destination, you just fold it up, put it somewhere out of the way, and forget about it until you need it again. It’s a matter of personal choice.

Since November is National Adopt a Senior Pet Month, after reading this book, you might want to think about adopting a retired guide dog. Verona was lucky that Ann and her family were willing and able to keep her after she was retired, but other former guide dogs aren’t as fortunate. In any case, this book would make a great gift for a dog lover or someone with a visual impairment interested in getting a guide dog. It would also be a good educational tool for anyone training in a disability-related field.

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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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More Humor from Italian Mother-Daughter Duo

Abbie-1

I’ve Got Sand in All the Wrong Places

By Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella

Copyright 2016

 

This is Lisa and Francesca’s latest collection of pieces on pets, dating, and other random topics. They span one year of their lives, Lisa’s in Philadelphia and Francesca’s in New York. Not all the essays are funny. Francesca and Lisa both write about a time when Francesca was mugged and how it affected both of them. Also, Lisa touches on hate mail.

If you were to ask me which one of these pieces was my favorite, I’d tell you they’re all great. I loved Francesca’s account of staying with friends in a rented beach house with a burglar alarm that went off whether you were going in or coming out. Lisa’s description of how she tried to make butternut squash soup reminded me of why I don’t cook very often. I could relate to the title. Whenever I visit a Florida beach with my brother and his family, I always get sand in the wrong places.

This book is available as a commercial audiobook with the authors narrating it. It gives a book a nice touch when you can hear the authors read it. According to the acknowledgements section, Lisa and Francesca love recording their books. I love hearing them. Whether you listen or read, I hope you will also enjoy this book.

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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.

 

Things to Know About Me

Thanks to Jodie Llewellyn at http://www.wordsreadandwritten.com/blogging-2/twenty-things/ for inspiring this. In her post, she answers some questions about herself. A while back, I did a similar post as part of a blog tour where several of us writers provided information about ourselves and our writing. Now, here are some answers to more questions about me.

How tall are you? I wish I could say I’m five foot two with eyes of blue, but I’m not. I’m only five foot one with brown eyes so naturally, I’m not the girl any man in any song would be looking for, but that’s just as well. My late husband Bill was nearly six feet tall, but that didn’t bother me. Before he became paralyzed as a result of two strokes, I loved standing with him while he held me.

Do you have a hidden talent? Yes, I have perfect pitch. I wasn’t born with it, and it’s not related to my visual impairment as a lot of people might think. It was acquired through constant exposure to music when I was a small child.

What is your biggest pet peeve? I really hate it when people ask me to sing a particular note or hit a glass with a spoon and ask me what note it is. People are amazed when they hear about something like this, but for me, after years of dealing with the supposed incredulity, it’s getting pretty old.

What’s your favorite song? I like “Memory” from Cats. I love cats, although I don’t have one, and in the song, an old feline longs for when she was young. When I worked for fifteen years as a registered music therapist in a nursing home, one of the things I did was use music to help residents reflect on their past. To hear me sing the song, go to https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/memory.mp3 .

What other activities do you like besides writing? I enjoy reading and walking. I also participate in water exercise classes at the YMCA and sing in a women’s group called Just Harmony and go out to eat and to concerts, plays, and other events with friends.

What’s your favorite junk food? I adore chocolate ice cream, pudding, brownies, pie. If it’s chocolate, I’ll eat it. I don’t care too much for candy, though.

Do you have a pet? As I said before, I love cats. I also like dogs, but after caring for my late husband Bill for six years, I’m not ready to take care of another living thing yet. I’ll be content to read and blog about them.

What books do you like to read? I enjoy memoirs, poetry, romance, and some historical fiction. I can do without explicit descriptions of sex and violence.

If you could only drink one beverage besides water for the rest of your life, what would it be? Dr. Pepper.

What kinds of movies do you like to watch? I like comedies and dramas, but I don’t particularly care for violence or sex.

What extracurricular activities did you participate in when you were in high school? I sang in the concert choir, acted in plays, and was on the speech team. I was also in the Spanish and French clubs for a while.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? I’ve lived in New York, Colorado, Arizona, Montana, and North Dakota, but here in Sheridan, Wyoming, is where I’ll spend the rest of my days.

Do you use a PC or a Mac? I use a PC now, but back in the 1990’s when I first became interested in computing, Dad talked me into getting a Mac. When I married Bill in 2005, I discovered that his PC’s screen reading software was better than that on my Mac. Since my computer was getting old, I decided to switch, much to Dad’s consternation. Fortunately, I waited until Dad finished paying for our wedding so we wouldn’t be left to cover those costs if he disowned me, which of course he didn’t.

Now that you know more about me, I’d like to learn more about you, my readers. If you have a blog, you can answer one or more of these questions on your blog and leave me a link in the comments field. If you don’t have a blog, you can answer any or all of these questions in the comments field. Please feel free to skip, modify, or add questions. Have fun with this. I look forward to hearing from you.

By the way, my new poetry collection, That’s Life, is now available from Amazon. If you’ve read it, please go to http://www.amazon.com/Thats-Life-New-Selected-Poems/dp/1622297067/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1413835674&sr=8-1&keywords=That%27s+Life%3A+New+and+Selected+Poems and leave a review. If not, you can order the book at the above link. You can also order it from Finishing Line Press, using the link below. For those of you like me who prefer it in a specialized format, it’s also available on Bookshare, and you can download a recording of me reading it from my Website at http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com/thatslife.htm .

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver, and That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

Order That’s Life from Amazon.

Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press.