United States Poet Laureate (2001–2003)

Billy Collins

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 Yorker, The 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.

Billy Collins has published twelve collections of poetry, including Questions About Angels, The Art of
Drowning, Sailing Alone Around the Room: New & Selected Poems, Nine Horses, The Trouble With Poetry
and Other Poems, Ballistics, Horoscopes for the Dead, and Picnic, Lightning. His books Aimless Love: New
Billy Collins
United States Poet Laureate (2001–2003)
“Billy Collins writes lovely poems…
Limpid, gently and consistently
startling, more serious than they
seem, they describe all the
worlds that are and were and
some others besides.”
— John Updike

and Selected Poems 2003 – 2013, The Rain in Portugal, and Whale Day And Other Poems were New York
Times bestsellers. A collection of his haiku, She Was Just Seventeen, was published by Modern Haiku
Press in fall 2006. He has also published two chapbooks, Video Poems and Pokerface. In addition, he has
edited two anthologies of contemporary
poetry: Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry
and 180 More: Extraordinary Poems for
Every Day, was the guest editor of The Best
American Poetry 2006, and edited Bright
Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems
about Birds, illustrated by David Allen Sibley.
He is currently working on his next book
of poetry titled Musical Tables (Penguin
Random House, November 2022).

Included among the honors Billy 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. He has also received the Aiken-Taylor
Award in Modern American Poetry, The Hall-Kenyon Prize, the Mailer Prize for Poetry, and the Peggy
V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award. In October 2004, Collins was selected as the inaugural
recipient of the Poetry Foundation’s Mark Twain Award for Humor in Poetry.

In June 2001, Billy Collins was appointed United States Poet Laureate 2001-2003. In January 2004,
he was named New York State Poet Laureate 2004-06. He is a former Distinguished Professor of
English at Lehman College of the City University of New York. In 2016 he was elected a member of
the American Academy of Arts & Letters.