Billy Collins

Billy Collins

Past Event: Sunday, May 22, 2011

At Benaroya Hall — S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium

Poetry Icon


Sponsored by Open Books: A Poem Emporium.

WE’RE BRINGING BILLY BACK! Ticket holders from the original November event are welcome to this Billy Collins presentation free of charge. If you have your original ticket, used or unused, it will gain you admission on May 22nd. If you need a replacement ticket, contact our Box Office at:

Billy Collins was born in New York City in 1941. He received a B.A. in English from Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1963 and his M.A. in English and a Ph.D. in romantic poetry from the University of California, Riverside in 1965 and 1971, respectively.

Collins was propelled into the literary spotlight when the collection Questions about Angelswas selected by poet Ed Hirsch for the 1990 National Poetry Series. He followed with The Art of Drowning (1995) and Picnic, Lightning (1998). In 1997 he released a recording of his poems, The Best Cigarette. He has written a collection of haikus and edited Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems about Birds, with paintings by David Allen Sibley, among other anthologies of contemporary poetry. Collins was also guest editor of The Best American Poetry 2006. “We seem to always know where we are in a Billy Collins poem, but not necessarily where he is going,” said poet Stephen Dunn, “I love to arrive with him at his arrivals. He doesn’t hide things from us, as I think lesser poets do. He allows us to overhear, clearly, what he himself has discovered.”

Collins has been called “the class clown in the schoolhouse of American poetry” for his humorous, welcoming style and broad appeal. Both critically acclaimed and tremendously popular, his last three collections have broken sales records for poetry. Collins served as the U.S. Poet Laureate from 2001 to 2003. “When words are put together in fresh ways,” he has said, “there is a pleasure-giving quality in language, which brings a release of endorphins.” The New York Times finds, “much of Collins’s work is not just deft and cheerful but possessing of a slyly complicated intellectual tone.”

Collins is a Guggenheim fellow, a New York Public Library “Literary Lion,” and a frequent guest on National Public Radio and A Prairie Home Companion. Included among the honors he has received are fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. He is a Professor of English at Lehman College of the City University of New York, where he has taught for over 30 years.

Selected Work
The Apple That Astonished Paris (1988)
Questions About Angels (1991)
The Art of Drowning (1995)
The Best Cigarette (audio recording, 1997)
Picnic, Lightning (1998)
Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems (2001)
Nine Horses (2002)
Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry (editor, 2003)
The Trouble with Poetry: And Other Poems (2005)

Interview with Billy Collins (Alexandra van de Kamp, Terra Incognita)
The Way We Live Now: Questions for Billy Collins (The New York Times, February 2003)
Review of The Trouble With Poetry (The New York Times, January 2006)
Food: Eat, Memory: The Fish by Billy Collins (The New York Times, November 2007)
Powell’s Books interview with Billy Collins

Event Details

Benaroya Hall — S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium

200 University Street
Seattle, WA 98101

View directions.

Transportation & Parking

This event will be held in the S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium, the largest event space at Benaroya Hall. 

Benaroya Hall is located at 200 University Street, directly across Second Avenue from the Seattle Art Museum. The public entrance to Benaroya Hall is along Third Avenue.

  • From Southbound I-5
    Take the Union Street exit (#165B). Continue onto Union Street and proceed approximately five blocks to Second Avenue. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound I-5
    Exit left onto Seneca Street (exit #165). Proceed two blocks and turn right onto Fourth Avenue. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Union Street. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound Highway 99 (Aurora Avenue)
    Take the Seneca Street exit and move into the left lane. Turn left onto First Avenue and proceed one block. Take the next right (at the Hammering Man sculpture) onto University Street. Continue up the hill two blocks to Third Avenue. Turn left onto Third Avenue. Continue to the next block and turn left onto Union Street. Make the next left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Southbound Highway 99 (Aurora Avenue)
    Take the Denny Way/Downtown exit. Keep right and cross over Denny Way onto Wall Street. Proceed approximately five blocks and turn left onto Second Avenue. Continue south on Second Avenue approximately eight blocks. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.

By Bus
Benaroya Hall is served by numerous bus routes. Digital reader boards along Third Avenue display real-time bus arrival information. For details and trip planning tools, call Metro Rider Information at 206.553.3000 (voice) or 206.684.1739 (TDD), or visit Metro online. The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, served by bus and light rail, has a stop just below the Hall (University Street Station).

The 430-car underground garage at Benaroya Hall provides direct access from the enclosed parking area into the Hall via elevators leading to The Boeing Company Gallery. Enter the garage on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street. Maximum vehicle height is 6’8″. Blink charging stations are available for electric vehicles. The event rate is $16.

Parking is also available at:

  • The Cobb Building (enter on University Street between Third and Fourth avenues).
  • The Russell Investments Center (enter on Union Street between First and Second avenues).
  • There are many other garages within a one-block radius of Benaroya Hall, along with numerous on-street parking options.


All of our venues have accessible seating and listening devices available. Please contact us at or 206.621.2230 x10 for more details and to let us know you’re coming so we can better accommodate your needs.