On Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins gave a funny, very engaging reading for the Kaufman-Repage Lecture at Wagner College's 130th anniversary Founders Day program. Here is an hour-long video of portions of Collins' program:
In June 2001, Billy Collins was appointed United States Poet Laureate 2001-2003. In January 2004, he was named New York State Poet Laureate 2004-06. Collins is a Distinguished Professor of English at Lehman College of the City University of New York, as well as a Senior Distinguished Fellow of the Winter Park Institute at Rollins College.
Collins is an American phenomenon. No poet since Robert Frost has managed to combine high critical acclaim with such broad popular appeal. 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 tremendously by his appearances on National Public Radio, 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.” It is a door that many thousands of readers have opened with amazement and delight.
Billy Collins has published eight collections of poetry, including “Questions About Angels,” “The Art of Drowning,” “Picnic,” “Lightning,” “Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes,” “Sailing Alone Around the Room: New & Selected Poems,” “Nine Horses,” “The Trouble With Poetry and Other Poems,” “Ballistics” and, most recently, “Horoscopes for the Dead.” A collection of his haiku, titled “She Was Just Seventeen,” was published by Modern Haiku Press in fall 2006. He also edited two anthologies of contemporary poetry: “Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry” and “180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Every Day,” was the guest editor of “The Best American Poetry 2006,” and edited “Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems about Birds,” with paintings by David Allen Sibley. His next book, “Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems 2003-2013,” will be released in October.
Included among the honors Billy Collins has received are fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. He has also been awarded the Oscar Blumenthal Prize, the Bess Hokin Prize, the Frederick Bock Prize and the Levinson Prize, all awarded by Poetry magazine. In October 2004, Collins was selected as the inaugural recipient of the Poetry Foundation’s Mark Twain Prize for Humor in Poetry.
THE KAUFMAN-REPAGE LECTURE, a celebration of Wagner College’s commitment to scholarly work and open inquiry, is sponsored by former Wagner College trustee Dr. Louise S. Kaufman ’75 M’78 H’12 and her husband, Dr. Peter Kaufman. They established the lecture series seven years ago with the goal of bringing noted speakers to campus and the community. This annual lecture is given during the college’s Founders Day convocation in mid-October each year. Past speakers have included Ken Jackson, professor of history and social science at Columbia University; Rebecca Skloot, author of the award-winning book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”; Bonnie Bassler, Squibb Professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton University and a 2002 MacArthur Fellow, and Joel Kotkin, author of “The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050.”