Book Review: The Rain in Portugal, by Billy Collins

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The Rain in Portugal: Poems by Billy Collins
Random House
2016
160 pages 

Reading Billy Collins is like visiting with a longtime friend. There’s a comfortable predictability; you understand each other. (Is he always late? Someone who likes to talk about the same subjects, rehash the same stories? Does she usually order the same meal at your favorite restaurant? There are probably a few people in your circle who don’t like this particular friend, for some reason or another. Doesn’t matter. Sometimes you just need a little time with someone who doesn’t put on airs of sophistication and isn’t pretentious.

That’s what Billy Collins’ poetry is for me. Having read four of his collections (Nine Horses; Ballistics; Questions About Angels; Picnic, Lightning) plus Aimless Love, a compilation of new and selected poems, I know what to expect.  He’s comfortable. I don’t need to think much. This collection, his twelveth, is all of that, with more than the usual number of references to literary greats and imaginary encounters with them. (One example, “The Bard in Flight,” fancies an airplane ride with a skittish Shakespeare holding the narrator’s hand.)

These offerings have been described by other reviewers as whimsical and imaginative, which I feel are accurate descriptions. The Rain in Portugal is an enjoyable collection for Collins’ longtime fans and a fine place to start if you’re new to his work.

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