18 pages 36 minutes read

Billy Collins

Another Reason Why I Don’t Keep A Gun In The House

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 2003

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

Summary and Study Guide


“Another Reason Why I Don’t Keep A Gun in the House” is a five-stanza contemporary poem by Billy Collins. The speaker expresses their annoyance with a barking dog and later imagines it as a part of a Beethoven symphony. The poem first appeared in Collins’s first full-length collection of poems, The Apple That Astonished Paris (1988). This poem has become one of his best-loved due to its straightforward diction, relatable subject matter, and humor. The poem also opens the collection Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems (2002).

Collins is a best-selling and popular poet. He served as the United States Poet Laureate from 2001-03. During his tenure, he raised awareness about contemporary poetry, championing its accessibility. Because of his humor and popularity, Collins is criticized as lightweight by some critics, whereas others have noted his poems often have more depth than first appear on the surface.

Poet Biography

Billy Collins was born William James Collins on March 22, 1941, in Queens, New York. He was the only child of William, Sr. and Katherine. Collins’s mother enjoyed reciting verses and was the main inspiration for his love of words. While Collins noted his father wasn’t particularly interested in poetry, he supported his son by bringing home Poetry magazine from work. When Collins saw the potential for expression through contemporary verse, he began earnestly writing poems.

Collins studied English at College of the Holy Cross and pursued advanced degrees in Romantic Poetry at The University of California Riverside. In 1979, he settled in Westchester County, New York with his first wife, architect Diane Lynn Olbright. In 1986, after receiving a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, Collins began working on a full-length collection which he later sent to poet Miller Williams at University of Arkansas Press. Williams returned the manuscript with only 17 poems gathered by a paperclip: He encouraged Collins to write more poems in the same vein as those collected. In 1988, under Williams’s mentorship, The Apple that Astonished Paris—in which “Another Reason Why I Don’t Keep a Gun in the House” first appears—was published.

Collins’s next full-length collection Questions About Angels gained significant attention when it was selected for the 1990 National Poetry Series; he received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1993. This was followed by The Art of Drowning (1995) and a recording of his poems called The Best Cigarette (1997) that proved to be a bestseller. In 1998, Picnic, Lightning was published.

From 2001-03, Collins served as the Poet Laureate of the United States; his tenure is remembered for two major reasons. To extend student knowledge of poetry, Collins began the Poetry 180 program. He chose 180 (mostly contemporary) poems for students to read throughout the school year. The program remains online at the Library of Congress. Collins was also serving as Poet Laureate during the 9/11 attacks and wrote a powerful poem called “The Names,” in remembrance of the victims. This poem was published in the New York Times in 2002, and Collins read the poem before a special joint session of Congress for the year anniversary of 9/11.

Collins prolifically published this period. He also won the 2005 Mark Twain Award for Humor in Poetry and served as New York State Poet from 2004-2006. In 2006, Collins and Olbright separated, and Collins moved to Florida. He published She Was Just Seventeen, a collection of haiku, that same year.

Collins came out with Horoscopes for the Dead in 2011 and gave a TED talk in 2012, which sums up most of his poetical subject matter: “Everyday Moments, Caught in Time.”  In 2013, he published Aimless Love (2013) and won the Donald Hall-Jane Kenyon Prize. He published Voyage in 2014 and served as cultural emissary to Russia. In 2016, The Rain in Portugal was published. In 2019, after a six-year engagement, Collins married his long-time fiancée, lawyer and poet Suzannah Gilman. He recently became a faculty member at the State University of New York-Stonybrook and has filmed a course on poetry for Master Class, an online subscription platform. He remains a popular speaker and successful poet.

Poem Text

Collins, Billy. “Another Reason Why I Don’t Keep A Gun In The House.” 1988. All Poetry.


The poem’s speaker is annoyed by the continual barking of the neighbors’ dog. This behavior is recurrent every time its owners leave. The speaker shuts their windows and listen to a Beethoven symphony on full volume to mask the dog’s noise, but all it does is muffle the bark, which goes on and on. With few other options, the speaker imagines that the dog’s barking is part of the symphonic content—a solo to which the other musicians show appreciation. At the end of the poem, the speaker notes Beethoven’s innovative genius as a composer and suggests that the dog itself might be worthy of a certain level of respect.

blurred text
blurred text
blurred text
blurred text
blurred text
blurred text
blurred text
blurred text