Billy Collins Named Irving Bacheller Professor of Creative Writing

December 15, 2008

Rollins College is pleased to announce that Billy Collins, former U.S. Poet Laureate and Winter Park Institute inaugural scholar-in-residence, will continue his relationship with Rollins College as Irving Bacheller Professor of Creative Writing through the 2008-09 academic year.

“We are honored to have Billy Collins as a member of our Rollins College community,” said Rollins President Lewis Duncan. “His appreciation for the liberal arts and his creative vision add energy to our intellectual pursuits on campus and in our local community.”

Billy Collins has published nine collections of poetry (Questions About Angels; The Art of Drowning; Picnic, Lightning; Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes; Sailing Alone Around the Room: New & Selected Poems; Nine Horses; The Trouble With Poetry and Other Poems; and his most recent, Ballistics). A collection of haiku, titled She Was Just Seventeen, was published by Modern Haiku Press in fall 2006. He also edited two anthologies of contemporary poetry, Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry and 180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Everyday, and was the guest editor of The Best American Poetry 2006.

Included among the honors Collins has received are fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. He has also been awarded the Oscar Blumenthal Prize, the Bess Hokin Prize, the Frederick Bock Prize, and the Levinson Prize—all awarded by Poetry magazine. In October 2004, Collins was selected as the inaugural recipient of the Poetry Foundation’s Mark Twain Award for Humor in Poetry. He received an honorary doctorate from Rollins in May 2008.

In June 2001, Collins was appointed United States Poet Laureate and was reappointed to a second term in 2002. In January 2004, he was named New York State Poet Laureate, an office he held until 2006. Collins is a Distinguished Professor of English at Lehman College of the City University of New York.

Collins was named the inaugural scholar-in-residence of the Winter Park Institute, a program launched by Rollins this fall which showcases thought leaders from diverse fields who are invited to the Institute for limited residencies. A highlight of the new Winter Park Institute was Collins’ informal conversation with singer-songwriter Paul Simon. The two poets of a modern generation discussed poetry, music and life.

As Rollins’ Irving Bacheller Professor of Creative Writing, Collins will represent the College and its intellectual and creative activities, in particular the writing programs, the Winter Park Institute and the College’s 2009 Festival of the Literary Arts, Winter With the Writers. Each Thursday in February 2009, renowned authors will visit Rollins, conducting master classes with students and speaking about their work. Collins will be the featured writer on February 19, 2009.

Background: Rollins established the Irving Bacheller Professorship of Creative Writing in 1940. A publishing executive and the popular American author of Eben Holden: A Tale of the North Country (1900), Bacheller founded the first modern newspaper syndicate in the United States. His work is lauded as sympathetically capturing the social, cultural and pioneering spirit of the times and people of his native northern New York state. A member of the Rollins College Board of Trustees, Bacheller was credited with creating a literary tradition in Winter Park, which was his home in his final years.  

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