“I am not thinking about the poem’s meaning; I am only trying to write a good poem, which involves securing the form of the poem and getting the poem to hold together.” -Billy Collins
A Little About Billy Collins
Born in 1941 in Queens New York, Billy was an only child. His mother, an avid poetry reader, would often quote lines to him growing up. He received a B.A. in English from the College of the Holy Cross in 1963. In 1968 he joined the faculty at Lehman College in Bronx. It took some time for Billy to gain notoriety as a poet. This gave him time to hone his craft. One of his editors said of Collins “By the time Billy took the stage, he was already fully formed.” (https://www.orlandomagazine.com/billy-collins-poet-in-residence/) In 1991 he won the National Poetry Series publication prize for Questions about Angels. In 1994, Poetry magazine named him their “Poet of the Year.”,and in 1997, He recorded The Best Cigarette, a best selling collection of his poems. In 2001, Collins landed a three book deal and a six figure advance. This was unheard of for a poet (https://www.orlandomagazine.com/billy-collins-poet-in-residence/) later that year he was appointed as Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001-2003. Mostly an honorary title, he was asked to write a poem commemorating the victims of 9/11 (https://www.orlandomagazine.com/billy-collins-poet-in-residence/). He read “The Names” at a special joint session of Congress held on the first anniversary of the terrorist attack. These days Collins still writes poetry and still works on a college campus. A colleague of Collins said there was a shift from “being a teacher who happened to be a poet to a poet who happened to be a teacher.” His work is best known for its humor and simplicity. He doesn’t scour the thesaurus for an obscure word. He still holds to his Blue collar parents. “Collins, in fact, is more blue-collar than ivory tower, more door-to-door than artist-in-the-garret, with a background that informs both his work ethic and that engaging persona he created.” (https://www.orlandomagazine.com/billy-collins-poet-in-residence/)
Billy Collins' thoughts on reading poetry out loud.