“Luring his readers into the poem with humor, Mr. Collins leads them unwittingly into deeper, more serious places, a kind of journey from the familiar to quirky to unexpected territory, sometimes tender, often profound.”
— The New York Times
“Billy Collins puts the fun back in profundity.”
— Alice Fulton
November 12, 2013 7:00 pm
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Billy Collins is an American phenomenon. No poet since Robert Frost has managed to combine high critical acclaim with such broad popular appeal. His work has appeared in a variety of periodicals including The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and The American Scholar. He is a Guggenheim fellow and a New York Public Library Literary Lion.
His last three collections of poems have broken sales records for poetry. His readings are usually standing room only, and his audience– enhanced tremendously by his appearances on National Public Radio– includes people of all backgrounds and age groups. The poems themselves best explain this phenomenon. The typical Collins poem opens on a clear and hospitable note but soon takes an unexpected turn; poems that begin in irony may end in a moment of lyric surprise. No wonder Collins sees his poetry as “a form of travel writing” and considers humor “a door into the serious.” It is a door that many thousands of readers have opened with amazement and delight.
Billy Collins has published ten collections of poetry, including Questions About Angels, The Art of Drowning, Picnic, Lightning, Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes, Sailing Alone Around the Room: New & Selected Poems, Nine Horses, The Trouble With Poetry and Other Poems, Ballistics, and Horoscopes for the Dead. A collection of his haiku, titled She Was Just Seventeen, was published by Modern Haiku Press in fall 2006. He also edited two anthologies of contemporary poetry: Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry and 180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Everyday, and was the guest editor of The Best American Poetry 2006. He is also the editor of Bright Wings: Poems about Birds, illustrated by David Sibley and published by Columbia University Press. His latest collection, published this year, is Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems (2003-2013).
Included among the honors Billy Collins has received are fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. He has also been awarded the Oscar Blumenthal Prize, the Bess Hokin Prize, the Frederick Bock Prize, and the Levinson Prize all awarded by Poetry magazine. Collins was the inaugural recipient of the Poetry Foundation’s Mark Twain Award for Humor in Poetry. In April 2013 Collins was awarded the Donald Hall-Jane Kenyon Prize in American Poetry.
Collins served as guest host of The Writer’s Almanac for summer 2013 and continues as Poetry Consultant for Smithsonian Magazine. This year he also travelled to Russia as a cultural emissary of the State Department.
Collins was appointed United States Poet Laureate 2001-2003. He served as New York State Poet Laureate 2004-06. He is currently a Distinguished Professor of English at Lehman College of the City University of New York as well as the Senior Distinguished Fellow of the Winter Park Institute at Rollins College.