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Billy Collins

Billy Collins was born in 1941 in New York City. He received a bachelor’s degree from the College of the Holy Cross, and master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of California-Riverside. He is a two-term United States Poet Laureate, New York State Poet, and the author of eight collections of poetry. Collins has been called “the most popular poet in America” by The New York Times, and his most recent book, Ballistics, spent more than 18 months on the Poetry Foundation’s best sellers list, where his previous book, The Trouble with Poetry, appeared for more than 2 years.

Collins’s previous books include Nine Horses; Sailing Alone Around the Room; Picnic, Lightning; The Art of Drowning; The Apple That Astonished Paris; and Questions About Angels, which was selected by Edward Hirsch for the National Poetry Series. His poetry has frequently appeared in anthologies including The Best American Poetry, textbooks, and periodicals including Poetry, The American Poetry Review, The American Scholar, Harper’s, The Paris Review, and The New Yorker. He is the editor of Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Bird Poems(illustrated by David Sibley), and he contributed an introduction to the recent reissue of Richard Brautigan’s Trout Fishing in America.

Collins has received fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, The National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation, and has won the Mark Twain Prize, the Bess Hokin Prize, the Frederick Bock Prize, the Oscar Blumenthal Prize, and the Levinson Prize– all awarded by Poetry magazine. In 1992 he was chosen by the New York Public Library to serve as a “Literary Lion.” With the Library of Congress, he established 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.”

Today, Collins is a Distinguished Professor of English at Lehman College (CUNY) and a Distinguished Fellow at the Winter Park Institute of Rollins College. He divides his time between New York and Winter Park, Florida.

Online Resources

Audio: Billy Collins reading @ KWLS 2003 and 2010
Interview in LITTORAL: “The Pleasures of Disorientation”
The Library of Congress Online Resources
Poetry Foundation profile
Guernica interview
NYTimes review of Ballistics
Poetry 180: a poem a day for American high schools