A two-term U.S. Poet Laureate, Billy Collins captures readers with his understated wit, profound insight -- and a sense of being "hospitable."
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:
“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.”
“It's a good thing to get poetry off the shelves and more into public life.”
“Bugs Bunny is my muse.”
“I think more influential than Emily Dickinson or Coleridge or Wordsworth on my imagination were Warner Brothers, Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes cartoons.”
“[One of my students said], "Poetry is harder than writing," which I found both erroneous and profound.”
“It is as if one by one, the memories you used to harbor decided to retire to the Southern Hemisphere of the brain.”
“Whatever it is you are struggling to remember, it is not poised on the tip of your tongue, not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen. It has floated away.”