William James “Billy” Collins (born March 22, 1941) is an American poet, appointed as Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003. He is a Distinguished Professor at Lehman College of the City University of New York and is the Senior Distinguished Fellow of the Winter Park Institute, Florida. Collins was recognized as a Literary Lion of the New York Public Library (1992) and selected as the New York State Poet for 2004 through 2006. He is (in 2015) a teacher in the MFA program at Stony Brook Southampton. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)
Dubbed “the most popular poet in America” by Bruce Weber in the New York Times, Billy Collins is famous for conversational, witty poems that welcome readers with humor but often slip into quirky, tender or profound observation on the everyday, reading and writing, and poetry itself.
Collins has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the New York Foundation for the Arts and has taught at Columbia University, Sarah Lawrence, and Lehman College, City University of New York, where he is a Distinguished Professor. He is also Senior Distinguished Fellow of the Winter Park Institute in Florida, and a faculty member at the State University of New York-Stonybrook. (The Poetry Foundation)
What can I say about Billy Collins? His writing is just so common that I can totally identify with what he’s written. He’s one of the few poets whose books I actually buy. It’s easy for me to see why he was dubbed “the most popular poet in American.” He just takes life and makes it into an uncomplicated poem…
This morning as low clouds
skidded over the spires of the city
I found next to a bench
in the park an ivory chess piece –
the white knight as it turned out –
and in the pigeon-ruffling wind
I wondered where all the others were,
lined up somewhere
on their red and black squares,
many of them feeling uneasy
about the saltshaker
that was taking his place,
and all of them secretly longing
for the moment
when the white horse
would reappear out of nowhere
and advance toward the board
with his distinctive motion,
stepping forward, then sideways
before advancing again –
the same move I was making him do
over and over in the sunny field of my palm.
In a rush this weekday morning,
I tap the horn as I speed past the cemetery
where my parents are buried
side by side beneath a slab of smooth granite.
Then, all day, I think of him rising up
to give me that look
of knowing disapproval
while my mother calmly tells him to lie back down.
The first thing I heard this morning
was a rapid flapping sound, soft, insistent—
wings against glass as it turned out
downstairs when I saw the small bird
rioting in the frame of a high window,
trying to hurl itself through
the enigma of glass into the spacious light.
Then a noise in the throat of the cat
who was hunkered on the rug
told me how the bird had gotten inside,
carried in the cold night
through the flap of a basement door,
and later released from the soft grip of teeth.
On a chair, I trapped its pulsations
in a shirt and got it to the door,
so weightless it seemed
to have vanished into the nest of cloth.
But outside, when I uncupped my hands,
it burst into its element,
dipping over the dormant garden
Here’s a little bonus, billy Collins talking about how many poems he writes that no one ever sees…
Picture Source: larybloom.net