When Serena at Savvy Verse & Wit asked for bloggers to sign up to do posts for National Poetry Month, I offered to do a poet spotlight on Billy Collins. When someone asks who my favorite poets are, Billy Collins is the first name that comes to mind. When someone who is new to poetry asks where to start, Billy Collins is the first name that comes to mind. His poetry is simple and beautiful, profound and honest. More than once I have found myself literally sighing at the end of one of his poems. At other times, I am amazed to find tears spring to my eyes over one of the truths he has revealed in a completely new way. Simply put, I adore him.
Billy Collins was born in 1941 New York. He has written many collections of poetry, including three of my absolute favorites: The Trouble with Poetry: And Other Poems, Questions About Angels, and Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems.
Collins was named U.S. Poet Laureate in 2001. He has given poetry workshops in Ireland, and has taught at Columbia University and Lehman College. It would be so amazing to take one of his classes!
I have featured Collins and his poetry many times on both this blog and my personal blog. In my review of Questions About Angels, I said, “Reading Billy Collins is like soaking in a hot bath after a long day, or diving into a dish of your favorite ice cream. His poems are deceptively simple – you don’t have to read them over and over again to decipher their meaning. And yet you will want to read them over and over again for the pure beauty and joy of them, and because you’ll find something new each time you do. His poems alternately make me laugh, bring a lump to my throat, and elicit a sigh of pleasure or melancholy when I finish one. There really are no words to use to tell you how much I adore his work.”
Here’s one for writers and aspiring writers:
Advice to Writers
Even if it keeps you up all night,
wash down the walls and scrub the floor
of your study before composing a syllable.
Clean the place as if the Pope were on his way.
Spotlessness is the niece of inspiration.
The more you clean, the more brilliant
your writing will be, so do not hesitate to take
to the open fields to scour the undersides
of rocks or swab in the dark forest
upper branches, nests full of eggs.
When you find your way back home
and stow the sponges and brushes under the sink,
you will behold in the light of dawn
the immaculate altar of your desk,
a clean surface in the middle of a clean world.
From a small vase, sparkling blue, lift
a yellow pencil, the sharpest of the bouquet,
and cover pages with tiny sentences
like long rows of devoted ants
that followed you in from the woods.
~ from Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins
Here are some Collins poems – or pieces of poems – I have posted in the past:
Other Billy Collins links:
There are many videos on YouTube of Collins talking about and reading his work. I’ll leave you with one of my favorites: