Aimless, Indeed


The verse in U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins' latest collection, Aimless Love (Random House), queries religious institutions, recalls a national tragedy, and considers sandhill cranes in Nebraska. The lexicon and meter make the poems accessible to laymen, as does the brevity of Collins' stanzas and lines. The poetry is subtle and self-aware, and it has a sense of humor.

Yet these works often feel weak, sometimes outright aimless-short on the gusto, commanding voice, and complex layering you might expect from someone deemed "laureate." Perhaps because of his office, Collins too often seems to be trying to be too much "of the people." He's better in the collection's older poems, which are more visually, metrically, and thematically bold.