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Billy Collins on Billy Collins

By Harriet Staff

Warning: When you make the jump to this interview with Billy Collins you will be greeted with an image that will haunt your high resolution dreams forevermore. But, once it actually loads and you spend a few minutes scrolling down it, you will find Billy Collins, the poet people love to love to hate to hate or hove to late, in conversation with Ben Fulton.

A little taste:

Do you blush when people compare you to Robert Frost?

No, I’m just quick to correct them on the comparison. Compared to Frost, my poetry is like a bed that hasn’t been made in six months. Frost was a genius in observing the rules of formal poetry — rhyme and meter — and yet made his poems seem as natural as a song. I can’t do that. I sound natural, but I follow a much less restrictive set of rules. The only point of comparison, really, is that we both sold a lot of books in our time.

Did your view of poetry’s place in the public sphere change after your tenure as U.S. Poet Laureate?

I never had great hopes for some kind of explosive change in the poetry-reading population of America. It’s gotten smaller since the 19th century because of competition from other media. Also, people’s absence from poetry is based almost completely on how poetry was presented to them in school. Often that absence is based on a bad memory, because when most people are exposed to poetry in school it’s often anxiety-inducing.

You’re often credited with making poetry casual and approachable. The advantage of that is obvious to most people, but do you see any disadvantage to making poetry seem too easy?

The only thing I should be credited with is writing my own poems. I’m not trying to change poetry one way or the other. I’m just trying to write one poem at a time, which is difficult enough. I’ve been accused of being underconceptualized. But for me? No, I don’t see any drawback.


Posted in Poetry News on Thursday, September 1st, 2011 by Harriet Staff.