Reading List: Billy Collins

I've tried to read more books this year. So far, I’ve read 11, which is more than I’ve read in several years.

The question, as a writer and musician, is this: is it more important to read or listen to music? It's sort of a trick question because each is important. Ultimately, I think it’s more important to read.

I’ve never read much poetry, and Laura Lisbeth recently lent me her copy of Billy Collins’ Sailing Alone Around the Room (2001). What a delight; I enjoyed every poem in this collection.

The term “economy of words” gets thrown about, which itself is a lean term. It’s about getting the most out of the fewest of words. Collins is a master of this.

It’s something I struggle with. Songwriting is like driving on a curving road in the middle of the night without headlights, and something could go wrong at any moment. When I complete a first draft, I’m like “Yay, I finished a song!” and I do a little dance on the side of the road. Welp, it’s a draft, and I soon realize that I gotta get back in the car and keep driving. And why the hell don’t the headlights work? I struggle.

Collins’ writing constantly surprised and delighted me. He can start a poem with a silly observation and end with something profound. Or vice-versa. He can trace the arc of the world in four stanzas using seemingly mundane examples from everyday life.

Great stuff. Highly recommended.