Paris Review – The Art of Poetry No. 83

Billy Collins has been appointed the new poet laureate by the Library of Congress, now the newest of a distinguished list that among others includes Robert Penn Warren, Joseph Brodsky, Robert Pinsky, and most recently, Stanley Kunitz.
Collins’s credentials, despite starting a career as a poet at the late age of forty, are impressive indeed. His various wonderfully named collections of poetry include Video Poems, Pokerface, Questions About Angels, The Art of Drowning, The Apple That Astonished Paris, Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes and Picnic, Lightning. Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems will be published this fall. His last three collections of poems have broken sales records for poetry. A well-known voice on National Public Radio, his public readings, perhaps better described as performances, are invariably put on before packed audiences.
His work is identified largely by its humor, which he speaks of as being “a door into the serious”—a comment echoed by John Updike’s sentiment: “Billy Collins writes lovely poems . . . limpid, gently startling, more serious than they seem, they describe all the worlds that are and were and some others besides.”
— Read on