Calgary Distinguished Writers Program
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 periodicals that include The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and The American Scholar. He is a “Literary Lion” of the New York Public Library. His last three collections of poems have broken sales records for poetry and his readings are usually standing room only. Collins’ poems themselves best explain this phenomenon. A typical Billy 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 humour “a door into the serious.” It is a door that many thousands of readers have opened with amazement and delight.
Billy Collins has published eight collections of poetry, including Questions About Angels, The Art of Drowning, Picnic, Lightning, Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes, She Was Just Seventeen, The Trouble With Poetry and Other Poems, Ballistics, and most recently, Horoscopes for the Dead. Included among the honours Billy Collins has received are fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation, the Oscar Blumenthal Prize, the Bess Hokin Prize, the Frederick Bock Prize, and the Levinson Prize. Collins was the inaugural recipient of the Poetry Foundation’s Mark Twain Prize for Humour in Poetry, was appointed United States Poet Laureate 2001-2003, and named New York State Poet Laureate 2004-06. As well, Billy Collins is a Distinguished Professor of English at Lehman College of the City University of New York, as well as a Senior Distinguished Fellow of the Winter Park Institute at Rollins College.
Billy Collins gave 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.