What impact have you had on poetry?

One of the most popular living poets in the United States, Billy Collins was born in New York City in 1941. Collins is the author of nine books of poetry, including She Was Just Seventeen (2006), The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems (2005), Nine Horses (2002), and Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems (2001). His work appears regularly in such periodicals as Poetry, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and Harper's Magazine, and has been featured in various textbooks and anthologies, including those for the Pushcart Prize and the annual Best American Poetry series. Between 2001 and 2004, Collins served two terms at the 11th Poet Laureate of the United States. In his home state, Collins has been recognized as a Literary Lion of the New York Public Library (1992) and selected as the New York State Poet for 2004. Other honors include fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation, and the first annual Mark Twain Prize for Humor in Poetry. He is currently a Distinguished Professor of English at Lehman College in the Bronx, where has taught for over thirty years. Ideas recorded at the 2007 Aspen Ideas Festival on: 7/4/07
  • Transcript


Billy Collins: A few people have said, “Well, this new poet is kind of imitating you,” but I never see it. I think it’s like when someone says “That person over there looks a lot like you.” You never see that yourself because you don’t think you look like what the first person thought you looked like. So I don’t really recognize these influences. I don’t know. Insofar as my poetry, it’s not difficult. It’s readable. It follows the etiquette of a sentence. If you know English, you can step into the poem without any initial problems. I see them as courtesies, because I see willfully obscure poetry as simply a kind of verbal rudeness which begins by ignoring the reader.

It’s like being in a room with someone and they’re just ignoring you. They’re looking out the window or looking at their shoes. So I suppose in that sense I’ve brought a few people back to poetry who had been scared away from it by teachers and by the rigors of school, of the way poetry is handled in school.


July 4, 2007