I should have reviewed Billy Collins’s Nine Horses months ago, but I couldn’t stand the excitement.[1] Collins is that rarity among American poets, one with popular appeal, easy to read as a billboard, genial as a Sunday golfer, and not so awful you want to cut your throat after reading him. Many readers complain that poetry is difficult to understand, the way they grumble when an opera is sung in Italian or resent a Czech film with subtitles. Art isn’t supposed to be such hard work, is it? Billy Collins writes poetry for those people, and they appreciate it.

Collins specializes in goofy, slightly offbeat subjects. If you want a poem about mice who play with matches, or about that song repeating uncontrollably in your head, or about feeling sorry for Whistler’s mother, he’s your man. Angst is not a word he’s learned, or Weltschmerz (he may...


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