What is your counsel?

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: Well I drive an 8-cylinder car, so it’s pretty hard for me to comment on what each of us should be doing to help the globe.  I don’t know.  I think we’re . . .  We get easily kind of ______ the . . .  I was listening to this Tibetan _____ last night.  And he said something like, “We never get . . . we never get tired of wanting things we don’t need.”  And I think it’s just we’re driven to acquire more and more things that we really didn’t need in the first place.  And once we have them we really don’t need more of them.  It’s that kind of individual drive that I think basically is . . . has a way of sundering a lot of the sense of the human interaction and human community.Well America has to lead the way.  I mean America has to make the biggest steps, I think.  And again, it’s . . . it’s a matter of getting to some kind of bipartisan understanding that there are . . . that global warming, for example, is not a Democratic or Republican issue.  And it’s not just an American, or French, or an Australian problem.  It’s a global problem. 

So it’s a challenge that’s asking America and everyone to think in a different way, which is to . . . to think . . . and not to sound like America’s oldest hippie, but to think of us as earthlings, as people on this globe.  Richard ______ is offering trips into outer space; but I think if we could send a lot of people into outer space, we could look back at this “little spot of earth”, as Chaucer called it . . .  I don’t think anyone has had that view and has been unchanged by it.  So maybe we will take so many years that we will . . . so many people will be able to look at the globe from outer space and see that we were actually living on this little marvel.