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This review is taken from PN Review 146, Volume 28 Number 6, July - August 2002.

MAKING MONEY BILLY COLLINS, Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems (Random House)

Billy Collins is America's current Poet Laureate and the eleventh so far. The latest addition to a distinguished group of versi- fiers that among others includes Robert Penn Warren, Joseph Brodsky, Robert Pinsky and, most recently, Stanley Kunitz, Collins is also, as the Associated Press's report of his appointment back in June 2001 made clear, a 'poet who makes money at the job'. Indeed, there is probably only one other poet who consistently outsells Collins in America: Seamus Heaney. When Collins's Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems was first published this past summer, it registered a healthy Amazon ranking of 200; by comparison, Paul Muldoon's Poems: 1968-1998 came in at a respectable 229,712. Others have apparently also picked up on the seemingly bullish pecuniousness of this poetry man. Writing in The New Republic, Adam Kirsch, for example, feels perfectly justified in calling the Associated Press's copy on Collins a highly typical instance of a new breed of 'startling philistinism' now rampant in the literary marketplace. Nevertheless, the force of Kirsch's sting is modified somewhat as he then goes on to quote, a little sadistically, just what this 'startling philistinism' translates as: 'Collins can collect $2,000 for a single reading of his poetry and Random House has reportedly offered him a publishing contract of at least $100,000 for three books... His one-year post as laureate will net him a $35,000 salary, a Washington office at the Library of Congress and few duties except to give more readings'. ...


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