Assembled during Billy Collins's tenure as U.S. Poet Laureate, this 2001 collection includes a generous selection from Picnic, Lightning as well as 20 new poems. Here too are selections from The Art of Drowning, Questions About Angels, and The Apple That Astonished Paris. These poems show Collins at his best—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.
"What Collins does best is turn an apparently simple phrase into a numinous moment."—The New Yorker
"[Collins] takes the mundane thing and shows you its mystery. And he takes the mysterious and strips it naked."—Washington Post
"The surface structure of these poems appears simplistic, but subtle changes in tone or gesture move the reader from the mundane to the sublime. In an attempt to sleep, the speaker in 'Insomnia' moves from counting sheep to envisioning Noah's arc to picturing 'all the fish in creation / leaping a fence in a field of water, / one colorful species after another.' Collins will tackle any topic: his subject matter varies from snow days to Aristotle to forgetfulness. The results are accessible but not trite, comical but not laughable, and well crafted but not overly flamboyant. Collins relies heavily on imagery, which becomes the cornerstone of the entire volume, and his range of diction brings such a polish to these poems that the reader is left feeling that this book 'once opened, can never be closed.' This volume belongs in everyone's library."—Library Journal
"On every delectable page, Collins performs nimble feats of the imagination and gives voice to an emotion we foolishly trivialize and condemn: pure pleasure. Nurturing a childlike love and talent for make-believe, he enters the landscape of a Hudson River painting; offers funny takes on history; writes lovingly of dogs, music, cups of tea, and books; and sees everything as a living entity, from a piano to a calendar pinup to the dawn. But what appears to be whimsy is, in fact, a graceful and ongoing inquiry into the nature of being. Mischievous and deeply attentive, inventive and grateful, Collins moves stealthily toward the essentials, quietly celebrating the simple and reflective life and gently reminding readers to respect and treasure our species' tenuous place on the great thrumming web of life."—Booklist