Billy Collins describes poetry as “the only surviving history we have of human emotion.” The most popular poet in America today, Collins was appointed the United States Poet Laureate for 2001 to 2003.
He writes comic and graceful poems that capture ordinary life, but never lose their sense of wonder, often leading the reader into unanticipated territory. Determined to make poetry a part of everyday life, Collins created Poetry 180, a project for students that provides a poem each day during the school year on the Library of Congress web site. The poems are meant to be read aloud and enjoyed; Collins’ hope is to convey the pleasures of poetry by cutting through its perceived inaccessibility. A New York Public Library “Literary Lion” and Guggenheim Fellow, Collins is an entertaining speaker who attracts diverse audiences from coast to coast. “His poems—witty, playful and beautifully formed—bump up against the deepest human mysteries,” writes poet Edward Hirsch.
Collins has published seven collections of poems, including Questions About Angels (1991), The Art of Drowning (1995), and most recently, Nine Horses (2002). An anthology, Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry, was published in 2003. Collins is a professor of English at Lehman College, where he has taught for more than thirty years. He lives in Somers, New York.
From Nine Horses: Poems (2002)
If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze
that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house
and unlatch the door to the canary’s cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,
a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies
seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking
a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,
releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage
so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting
into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.
Selected WorkNine Horses (2002)Sailing Alone Around the Room (2001)Picnic, Lightening (1998)The Art of Drowning (1995)Questions About Angels (1991)Pokerface (1977)