Questions about Angels is widely acknowledged to be Collins’s breakthrough collection, picked by Edward Hirsch as a selection in the National Poetry series for 1990. Reviews, however, were mixed, and critics remain divided as to the merits of his poetry today. Penny Kaganoff, for example, reviewing the collection for Publishers Weekly, writes, “Collins’s images are often strange and wonderful but too frequently his poems are constricted by the novelty of a unifying metaphor.” Echoing a common response to Collins’s poetry often voiced by other critics, Kaganoff notes, “We can admire the scope of Collins’s imagination, but his poems rarely induce an emotional reaction, precluding us from any affinity with his experience.” Writing for Library Journal, Ellen Kaufman describes Collins’s poetry as “metaphyscial musings in a whimsical mode,” but admits that sometimes his poems are “occasionally glib or bland.” Reviewing Collins’s Sailing Alone around the Room: New and Selected Poems for Poetry, Dennis O’Driscoll emphasizes Collins’s deft use of perspective and tone, asserting that “Billy Collins is not so much a comic poet inside whom there is a serious poet struggling to be let out as a poet who sees comedy as a legitimate vehicle for seriousness.” Those who admire Collins’s poetry are passionate about his work. Barbara Genco, for example, also reviewing Sailing Alone around the Room: New and Selected...
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