Billy Collins is a two-term United States Poet Laureate and the founder of Poetry 180, a teaching aid for high school students founded on the belief that “poems can inspire and make us think about what it means to be a member of the human race.” Once called “the most popular poet in America” by The New York Times, Collins has, over the course of eight collections of poetry, proven his remarkable facility for attracting a broad audience of readers. Most recently, Collins is the editor of Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems about Birds, with paintings by renowned bird illustrator David Allen Sibley.
This recording from the 2010 Key West Literary Seminar features Collins delivering a lecture and reading entitled “Dear Reader.” “I think of the poem as a social encounter,” says Collins, one equally dependent upon both reader and writer, for “the poem is completed in the mind of the reader.” He quotes noted baseball writer Roger Angell saying “That’s what writing is all about: the love of strangers”; and he discusses the work and thought of writers including William Butler Yeats, Jorge Luis Borges, Walt Whitman, and Mark Strand. Collins illustrates the points of his discussion with several poems that explore the intimacy shared by reader and writer. These are “A Portrait of the Reader with a Bowl of Cereal,” “You, Reader,” “Directions,” “Fishing on the Susquehanna in July,” “The Trouble with Poetry,” “Purity,” and “Envoy.”
From KWLS 2010: Clearing the Sill of the World