Skip to navigation

U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins to Give Poetry Reading

Covenant College presents a poetry reading by U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins on Wednesday, January 21, at 8:00 pm in the chapel auditorium. The event is free and open to the public. Mr. Collins will be on hand following the presentation for a book-signing.


This presentation is made possible by the generosity of an anonymous Covenant College alumnus who wanted to honor Dr. Nick Barker, retired professor of English and former vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty at Covenant. This grant enables the English department to bring to campus an established writer to teach an intensive writing course, to interact with students, and to present a public reading and a chapel address. This is the same grant that will return the award-winning author Leslie Leyland Fields to Covenant later this spring as Nick Barker Writer in Residence. To recognize Dr. Barker's gifts as a poet, the English department selected one of his favorites to visit the campus.


Billy Collins is an American phenomenon. 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 by his appearances on National Public Radio - typically 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."


Billy Collins has published eight collections of poetry. A collection of his haiku, titled She Was Just Seventeen, was published by Modern Haiku Press in fall 2006. He has edited two anthologies of contemporary poetry, and was the guest editor of The Best American Poetry 2006. His next poetry collection, titled Ballistics, is slated for publication in 2008.


Included among the honors Collins has received are fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. In October 2004, Collins was selected as the inaugural recipient of the Poetry Foundation's Mark Twain Award for humorous poetry.


In June 2001, Collins was appointed United States Poet Laureate 2001-2003. In January 2004, he was named New York State Poet Laureate 2004-2006. Billy Collins is a distinguished professor of English at Lehman College of the City University of New York.


The views expressed by Covenant-sponsored speakers and other college guests do not necessarily represent the views of Covenant College or its constituencies.