the trouble with poetry is
that it encourages the writing of more poetry
~from "The Trouble With Poetry" by Billy Collins
An Evening with Billy Collins
Whether you're a fan of poetry or not, you're sure to enjoy listening to former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins at the University of Calgary. Collins has been praised (and sometimes derided) for his "accessible" poetry—that is, poetry that the average Joe or Jane can read and enjoy whether or not they have a graduate degree in literature.
Collins' poems frequently examine everyday life, often with sly humour and astute insights into human nature. During his tenure as Poet Laureate, Collins created Poetry 180, a program designed to bring poetry into the lives of high school students.
The Calgary Distinguished Writers Program is bringing poet Billy Collins to Calgary as the 2012 Calgary Distinguished Visiting Writer. Collins will give a free public reading and lecture on Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at 7:30 p.m. at in the Ballroom on the 3rd Floor of MacEwan Hall, MacEwan Student Centre, University of Calgary. Click here for more information.
If you're not familiar with the work of Billy Collins, we have several collections of his poetry (click on the book covers to see a few) and many of his poems are online in both text and audio format:
Billy Collins biography and poems on the Poetry Foundation site.
Two audio recordings of Billy Collins:
Best Cigarette website
Billy Collins on The Trouble with Poetry
All Things Considered, NPR, November 6, 2005
Collins Values Approachable Poetry, Not Pretension
Talk of the Nation, NPR, April 6, 2011
Best Cigarette is a audio collection of Billy Collins poems read by the poet and available for free download. →
The Library of Congress Poetry 180 site and two books include poems chosen by Billy Collins and designed to be read by high school students (or, anyone):
“Poetry can and should be an important part of our daily lives. Poems can inspire and make us think about what it means to be a member of the human race.”
From Poetry 180.
Since my life has been recently touched by issues of memory and forgetting, I'll post a Billy Collins poem that has particularly resonated with me:
The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,
as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.
Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,
something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.
Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.
It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.
No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.
("Forgetfulness" from Taking Off Emily Dickinson's Clothes.)
The following video includes Billy reading three of his poems including, with much audience laughter, "Forgetfulness":
Billy Collins Reading in the 2008 Dodge Poetry Festival
And for something completely different (but still laughter)—here's Billy's pal Bill Murray doing a reading of the above poem:
Bill Murray reads "Forgetfulness."
Say what? A poet with a sense of humour? Go figure.
"If you find yourself as a writer thinking about posterity you should probably go out for a brisk walk or something."
~Billy Collins interview in Guernica Magazine.