It’s not often you get to hear poems you love read aloud by their author. This is because the vast majority of poets who wrote poems that people know and love are dead. But Billy Collins is most certainly not dead, and he did a reading at Boston College the Thursday evening before spring break, sharing many of his poems, including some from his most recent book Horoscopes for the Dead.
Collins, the Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001-2003, has published numerous collections that are widely renowned and appreciated. One of the most wonderful aspects of Collins’ writing, if you are not familiar with it, is its humor and accessibility. These are not poems that you need several encyclopedic volumes, fluency in Latin and Greek and about 10 hours to understand. He writes for his readership because, as he said, people who read your poetry don’t do so because they like you; rather, because they like poetry. You have to make them fall for you through the poem, not the other way around. He made his opinion that poetry should be easy to reach and read very clear. This accessibility is one of his great successes as a writer.
In addition to this reading/Q&A session, Collins also hosted a workshop for a group of BC students earlier that day. I, unfortunately, wasn’t able to attend, but those who did found it to be a truly outstanding experience. Bailey Spencer (A&S 2014) was one of the lucky few in attendance, and said that she “couldn’t stop taking notes the whole time Billy Collins was talking because he said so such interesting things about the craft in such an interesting way. The things he had to say about the process of writing poetry were really reassuring and inspiring… I just wanted to go write!”
I felt the same way after listening to Collins speak about and read his work. This was easily one of my favorite experiences at BC so far. As an aspiring writer, I, like Bailey, was encouraged by what Billy Collins said and by his very presence: a real live poet! I thought they might be extinct!