Billy Collins is an American phenomenon. No poet since Robert Frost has managed to combine high critical acclaim with such broad popular appeal. He is frequently referred to as the bestselling American living poet.
Get your ticket now for admission to this live poetry session
Please join me for this live, three-hour poetry session. I’ll pull from decades as a literature and poetry professor and tackle many of the enduring questions around how to create and write poetry.
What’s going on in the poet’s mind when he or she is actually composing a poem? Is it Life and Death? Beauty? Truth? The Environment? I think the answer for me and many other poets is that there is no room in our heads for such big, capitalized subjects when a poem is underway. We are mostly thinking about how to keep the poem alive by advancing it line by line, and eventually, how to find an interesting place to stop.
Whether you are a practicing poet yourself, an interested reader of poetry, or both, having access to the inner workings of a poem by seeing the poem from the writer’s point of view will sharpen your abilities as a poet and add to your appreciation as a reader.
Poems arrive in their readers’ hands fully done, cooked, and set in no longer moveable type. But every poem—even a Shakespeare sonnet—was once a work in progress, a living thing that the poet was still working on, perhaps not having a clue what should come next.
So: what I am offering here is an opportunity to enter poems in a fuller, more imaginative way by beholding their inner workings and by imagining the compositional process the poet might have gone through as the poem evolved from an inky mess on a page to a varnished thing.
We will look at a mix of poems— old and new, familiar and odd. I will offer some of my own as examples; after all, I was right there when they were written. We will look at a still unfinished poem of mine, one where the paint is still wet.
This will be an interactive experience, not a lecture on poetry. Your comments and questions, delivered in real time, will give our gathering its vitality
I hope you will sign-up for this poetry safari. Pith helmets and insect repellent not required.
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Billy Collins is the author of twelve collections of poetry including The Rain in Portugal, Aimless Love, Horoscopes for the Dead, Ballistics, The Trouble with Poetry, Nine Horses, Sailing Alone Around the Room, Questions About Angels, The Art of Drowning, and Picnic, Lightning. He is also the editor of Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry, 180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Every Day, and Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds. His new book is Whale Day And Other Poems (Penguin Random House, September 29, 2020).
A former Distinguished Professor at Lehman College of the City University of New York, Billy served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003 and as New York State Poet from 2004 to 2006. In 2016 he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in Florida with his wife Suzannah.