A two-term U.S. Poet Laureate, Billy Collins captures readers with his understated wit, profound insight — and a sense of being "hospitable."

Why you should listen

Accessibility is not a word often associated with great poetry. Yet Billy Collins has managed to create a legacy from what he calls being poetically “hospitable.” Preferring lyrical simplicity to abstruse intellectualism, Collins combines humility and depth of perception, undercutting light and digestible topics with dark and at times biting humor.

While Collins approaches his work with a healthy sense of self-deprecation, calling his poems “domestic” and “middle class,” John Taylor has said of Collins: “Rarely has anyone written poems that appear so transparent on the surface yet become so ambiguous, thought-provoking, or simply wise once the reader has peered into the depths.”

In 2001 he was named U.S. Poet Laureate, a title he kept until 2003. Collins lives in Somers, New York, and is an English professor at City University of New York, where he has taught for more than 40 years.

Credits for the animations in this talk:

"Budapest," "Forgetfulness" and "Some Days" -- animation by Julian Grey/Head Gear

"The Country" -- animation by Brady Baltezor/Radium

"The Dead" -- animation by Juan Delcan/Spontaneous
 

Billy Collins’ TED talks

Billy Collins on the TED Blog

Live from TED2014

Unstress: Speakers in Session 11 at TED2014

March 21, 2014

We live most of our lives wired and wound up, rarely pausing to relax or unplug from the daily grind. Our speakers in this session discuss the consequences of our ever-hectic lives, and remind us of the qualities we sometimes forget to foster. They include an author discussing why modern parenthood is out of whack, […]

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Art

Poems in motion: Billy Collins at TED2012

February 29, 2012

Photo: James Duncan Davidson “I’m here to give you your recommended daily allowance of poetry.” So says Billy Collins, former Poet Laureate of the United States. He tells the story of being approached by the Sundance Channel to record his poems and set them to animation. Attempts to set his poetry to music had failed in the past. But […]

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Quotes from Billy Collins

When you get a poem [in a public place], it happens to you so suddenly that you don't have time to deploy your anti-poetry deflector shields that were installed in high school.
Billy Collins
TED2012 • 884K views Mar 2012
Funny, Beautiful