Winter Park Institute

Billy Collins

Former U.S. Poet Laureate and American phenomenon.


Beyond the Birdbath: Poems from Several Time Zones

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With his popular collection of poetry readings, Collins amazes and delights his audience.

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Billy Collins is an American phenomenon. No poet since Robert Frost has managed to combine high critical acclaim with such broad popular appeal. His work has appeared in a variety of periodicals including The New YorkerThe Paris Review, and The American Scholar. He is a Guggenheim fellow and a New York Public Library Literary Lion.

His last three collections of poems have broken sales records for poetry. His readings are usually standing room only, and his audience - enhanced tremendously by his appearances on National Public Radio - includes people of all backgrounds and age groups. The poems themselves best explain this phenomenon. The typical Collins poem opens on a clear and hospitable note but soon takes an unexpected turn; poems that begin in irony may end in a moment of lyric surprise. No wonder Collins sees his poetry as "a form of travel writing" and considers humor "a door into the serious." It is a door that many thousands of readers have opened with amazement and delight.

Collins was appointed United States Poet Laureate 2001-2003. He served as New York State Poet Laureate 2004-06. He is Senior Distinguished Fellow of the Winter Park Institute at Rollins College, and a former Distinguished Professor at Lehman College of the City University of New York. He was recently inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.