Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems Book reviews


Author(s): Billy CollinsDownload  


Sailing Alone Around the Room, by America’s Poet Laureate, Billy Collins, contains both new poems and a generous gathering from his earlier collections The Apple That Astonished Paris, Questions About Angels, The Art of Drowning, and Picnic, Lightning. These poems show Collins at his best, performing the kinds of distinctive poetic maneuvers that have delighted and fascinated so many readers. They may begin in curiosity and end in grief; they may start with irony and end with lyric transformation; they may, and often do, begin with the everyday and end in the infinite. Possessed of a unique voice that is at once plain and melodic, Billy Collins has managed to enrich American poetry while greatly widening the circle of its audience.

Some Reviews: 685 in


7jane rated it     

A quick read, read in two days, yet I tried my best to rush it, because this was good. A collection of poems from earlier collections with new batch added at the end, this book has poems of various moods, some of which may appear in the same poem, changing the feeling at some point(s).

There’s many with everyday-life feel in them, yet some go beyond and turn things around deliciously. They’re often funny too; I didn’t find anything too-heavy within.

The author doesn’t write his poems too heavily-laden, which has stopped me reading some poets, nor is the language too tied up to read in the evening when mind isn’t at its sharpest focus anymore.

“Vade Mecum”
I want the scissors to be very sharp
and the table to be perfectly level
when you cut me out of my life
and paste me in that book you always carry.

I haven’t read his stuff before, but I have a feeling I’ve read “The Dead” somewhere before, some anthology I guess. These poems have often lots of nature bits going on, themes whirling around the author’s home, and the family dog entering the poems now and then. Also, tea and mornings. 🙂

Favorites: “Questions About Angels”, “Forgetfulness”, “Canada”, “My Heart”, “Center”, “Piano Lessons”, “Nightclub”, “Morning”, “Shoveling Snow With Buddha”, “Japan”, “Passengers”, “Aristotle”, “Reading An Anthology Of Chinese Poems Of The Sung Dynasty, I Pause To Admire The Length And Clarity Of Their Titles”, “The Waitress” and “Man Listening To Disc”.

I guess I bumped into this book here, though which friend it was (or ‘readers also enjoyed’ part may have hinted at it, too), I don’t know. But in any case, this was a good purchase, and very recommendable; not too thick nor too heavy poetry-wise 🙂


Malia rated it      

Another wonderful collection by Billy Collins! My favorite poems in this book (though liked most of them) are “Student of the Clouds”, “Nostalgia”, “The Dead” and “Candle Hat”. Looking forward to reading more by this author!

Find more reviews and bookish fun at

Megan Baxter

Megan Baxter rated it      

I know nothing about poetry. A bad experience in my first-year World Literature class sent me running screaming from the English Department. This doesn’t mean I don’t like poetry, just that I know little about it, or how to find good poetry.

But when I read s.penkevich’s great review of Sailing Alone Around the Room, the poems he posted as part of that caught my attention right away, and I ordered the book from the library.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook


rahul rated it      

last night my soul woke up
Thirsty, I call it
looking for something that I had
Missed, so I have named my memories

a memory came from the past
and led me forward
giving shore to my lost
soul,within the pages of…
Sailing Alone Around the Room

A couple of poems I drank then.
Savored another before breakfast.
One awaits me once
I am done with this review.

Meanwhile, for better use of words.
Please relish this.

Winter Syntax

A sentence starts out like a lone traveler
heading into a blizzard at midnight,
tilting into the wind, one arm shielding his face,
the tails of his thin coat flapping behind him.

There are easier ways of making sense,
the connoisseurship of gesture, for example.
You hold a girl’s face in your hands like a vase.
You lift a gun from the glove compartment
and toss it out the window into the desert heat.
These cool moments are blazing with silence.

The full moon makes sense. When a cloud crosses it
it becomes as eloquent as a bicycle leaning
outside a drugstore or a dog who sleeps all afternoon
in a corner of the couch.

Bare branches in winter are a form of writing.
The unclothed body is autobiography.
Every lake is a vowel, every island a noun.

But the traveler persists in his misery,
struggling all night through the deepening snow,
leaving a faint alphabet of bootprints
on the white hills and the white floors of valleys,
a message for field mice and passing crows.

At dawn he will spot the vine of smoke
rising from your chimney, and when he stands
before you shivering, draped in sparkling frost,
a smile will appear in the beard of icicles,
and the man will express a complete thought.

-Billy Collins

Jenny (Reading Envy)

Jenny (Reading Envy) rated it     

I have heard the poet Billy Collins read his own work frequently enough that when I read his poems now, I hear them in his voice. This collection takes some poems from previous collections (some I had read already, and one I had read the same day from a collection of various poets – The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, and Joy) and sprinkles in a few new poems.

I was surprised by how many of the poems were about the writing and teaching of poetry itself, but perhaps that is an indication of where Collins was in the years leading up to 2001, when it was published. But already, the dry humor, the remarks I love, are present.

I bought this for $1 at the Friends of the Library book sale and read it the same day! Now it is the last day of National Poetry Month.

My favorites this time around:

“…But it is hard to speak of these things
how the voices of light enter the body
and begin to recite their stories…”

Man in Space (listen on YouTube)

About the comments students leave next to poems… read it in its entirety on PoemHunter

Lines Lost Among Trees
“These are not the lines that came to me
while walking in the woods
with no pen….”

“Even though the house is deeply silent
and the room, with no moon,
is perfectly dark…
someone inside me will not
get off his tricycle…”

Tomes (read in its entirety on PoemHunter
“There is a section in my library for death…”


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