Billy Collins 2 2011 Shankbone

Billy Collins in 2011. Photo by David Shankbone. Courtesy Wikimeidia Commons.

Billy Collins
Born March 22 1941 (1941-03-22) (age 79)
New York City, New York, United States
Occupation Professor, Poet, Author, Anthologist
Nationality American

William James "Billy" Collins[1] (born March 22, 1941) is an American poet and academic, who has served as American Poet Laureate.[2]



Collins was born in New York City to William and Katherine Collins. Katherine Collins was a nurse who stopped working to raise the couple's only child. Mrs. Collins had the ability to recite verses on almost any subject, which she often did, and cultivated in her young son the love of words, both written and spoken. Billy Collins attended Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains. He received a B.A. in English from the College of the Holy Cross in 1963 and an M.A. and Ph.D in English from the University of California, Riverside. His professors at Riverside included Victorian scholar and poet Robert Peters.[3][4] In 1975 Collins founded The Mid Atlantic Review with his good friend and co-editor, Michael Shannon.[5]


He is a professor at Lehman College of the City University of New York,[2] where he joined the faculty in 1968 and has taught for over 30 years.

Additionally, he is the Senior Distinguished Fellow of the Winter Park Institute, Florida.[2] and a founding Advisory Board member of the CUNY Institute for Irish-American Studies at Lehman College. He also has taught and served as a visiting writer at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York as well as teaching workshops across the U.S. and in Ireland. Collins is a member of the faculty of SUNY Stonybrook Southampton College, where he teaches poetry workshops. Collins has been named Senior Distinguished Fellow at the Winter Park Institute in Winter Park, Florida, an affiliate of Rollins College. He is on the editorial board at the Alaska Quarterly Review, but not actively involved since 2000.[6][7] He is on the advisory board at the Southern Review, and is similarly named in other journals

In 1997, Collins recorded The Best Cigarette, a collection of 34 of his poems, that would become a bestseller. In 2005, the CD was re-released under a Creative Commons license, allowing free, non-commercial distribution of the recording. He also recorded 2 of his poems for the audio versions of Garrison Keillor's collection Good Poems (2002).

Billy Collins

Collins performing in San Diego, 2008. Photo by Marcelo Noah. Licensed under Creative Commons, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

As U.S. Poet Laureate, Collins read his poem "The Names" at a special joint session of the United States Congress on September 6, 2002, held to remember the victims of the 9/11 attacks. Although, unlike their British counterparts, U.S. poets laureate are not asked or expected to write occasional poetry, Collins was asked by the Librarian of Congress to write a poem especially for that event. Collins initially refused to read "The Names" in public, though he has read it twice in public since 2002. He vows not to include it in any of his books, refusing to capitalize in any way on the 9/11 attacks. However, "The Names" was included in the The Poets Laureate Anthology, put out by the Library of Congress, for which Collins wrote the foreword. The only published version of "The Names," it contains a number of regrettable typographical errors.

As Poet Laureate, Collins instituted the program Poetry 180 for high schools. Collins chose 180 poems for the program and the accompanying book, Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry-- one for each day of the school year. Collins edited a second anthology, 180 More Extraordinary Poems for Every Day to refresh the supply of available poems. The program is online, and poems are available there for no charge.[8]

Collins has appeared on Keillor's radio show, A Prairie Home Companion, numerous times, where he gained a portion of his large following. In 2005, Collins recorded "Billy Collins Live: A Performance at the Peter Norton Symphony Space" in New York City. Collins was introduced by his friend, actor Bill Murray.


Collins served as the U.S. Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, 2001-2003.[2]

He was recognized as a Literary Lion of the New York Public Library (1992) and selected as the New York State Poet for 2004-2006.

Hehas received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the New York Foundation for the Arts.[2]

Collins has been called "The most popular poet in America" by the New York Times. When he moved from the University of Pittsburgh Press to Random House, the advance he received shocked the poetry world — a six-figure sum for a three-book deal, virtually unheard of in poetry.[9] The deal secured for Collins through his literary agent, Chris Calhoun of Sterling Lord Literistic, with the editor Daniel Menaker, remained the talk of the poetry world, and indeed the literary world, for quite some time.[10]

Over the years, the U.S. magazine Poetry has awarded Collins several prizes in recognition of poems they publish. During the 1990s, Collins won five such prizes. The magazine also selected him as "Poet of the Year" in 1994. In 2005 Collins was the first annual recipient of its Mark Twain Prize for Humor in Poetry. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts and in 1993, from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation.


  • 1986, Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts
  • 1983, Fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts
  • 1991, National Poetry Series publication prize - winner, Questions About Angels
  • 1992, New York Public Library 'Literary Lion'
  • 1993, Fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation
  • 1994, Poetry Magazine - Poet of the Year
  • 1995, Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, Academy of American Poets - shortlist, The Art of Drowning
  • 2001, US Poet Laureate
  • 2002, US Poet Laureate
  • 2004, New York State Poet Laureate
  • 2005, Mark Twain Award for Humor in Poetry


Poetry Edit


  • (Contributor) The Eye of the Poet: Six Views of the Art and Craft of Poetry (edited by David Citino). New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.


Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy the Poetry Foundation..[2]

Audio / videoEdit

Billy Collins - "Litany"

Billy Collins - "Litany"

Billy Collins Two poems about what dogs think (probably)

Billy Collins Two poems about what dogs think (probably)

Four poems from Billy Collins - 2 7 2015

Four poems from Billy Collins - 2 7 2015

  • Billy Collins. Kansas City, MO: New Letters Magazine, 2002.
  • An Evening with Billy Collins, January 15, 2004 (eAudiobook). San Francisco: City Arts & Lectures, 2004.
  • Billy Collins Live: A performance at the Peter Norton Symphony Space April 20, 2005 (CD). New York : Random House, 2005; Westminster, MD: Books on Tape, 2007.
  • Poetry 180: A turning back to poetry (CD). Princeton, NJ: Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, 2006.
  • An Evening with Billy Collins, June 22, 2008 (eAudiobook). San Francisco: City Arts & Lectures, 2008.
  • Aimless Love (CD). New York : Random House, 2013.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[11]

Poems by Billy CollinsEdit

  1. The Names

See alsoEdit

Preceded by
John Ashbery
New York State Poet
Succeeded by
Jean Valentine


  1. William James Collins is the name on Collins' Ph.D. thesis,, OCLC no. 20004421
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Billy Collins b. 1941, Poetry Foundation, Web, Jan. 2, 2012.
  3. Interview with Billy Collins by Renee H Shea - College Board Teaching Series accessed 2010-03-18
  4. The Coachella Review - Interview with Collins By Robert Potts accessed 2010-03-18
  5. / The Bowery and The Mid-Atlantic Review - archive material accessed 2010-03-18
  6. VQR
  7. Billy Collins, Contributor. Alaska Quarterly Review Volume 19, No. 3 & 4 Spring & Summer 2002. Accessed 2010-09-02
  8. From the Library of Congress official website for Poetry 180 accessed 2010-03-18
  9. New York Times article December 19, 1999 accessed 2010-03-18
  10. New York Times article November 18, 2001 accessed 2010-03-18
  11. Search results = au:Billy Collins + audiobook, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Inc. Web, Sep. 27, 2016.

External linksEdit

Audio / video
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