Writers on Writing

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: I sort of think that getting a writer to talk about his or her own work is a little like if you’ve ever tried to get a dog interested in looking in a mirror – especially a puppy. You know you get this puppy, and that you take it over to the mirror and say, “Look how cute you are! Look at you,” you know? And the puppy doesn’t smell anything, so it doesn’t connect. And I think it’s a little like that with writers.  I’ve become known for a couple of poems. I mean, there’s a poem called “Forgetfulness” that I wrote quite a few years ago. And it is about mental slippage. And because of that it seems to have an ever-growing audience that can get on board that poem pretty quickly. I just hear from people that’s the poem that people say, “Well that’s on my refrigerator,” or, “I read that over the phone to somebody.” I suppose if everyone has a “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” that’s become kind of a signature poem. But again, if you ever see me sitting at home reading my own poetry, please come over and throw something at me . . . hard.


Recorded on: July 4, 2007 at The Aspen Ideas Festival