Guiding a Poem to an Ending (Morning)
with Billy Collins
This opportunity to study with “America’s most popular poet,” will be limited to twelve participants.
You can spot a Billy Collins poem immediately. The amiable voice, the light touch, the sudden turn at the end. He “puts the ‘fun’ back in profundity,” says poet Alice Fulton. In his own words, his poems tend to “begin in Kansas and end in Oz.”
This workshop will focus on the poem’s transit from its beginning, through its middle to the end–so not to leave anything out. We will observe how a poem launches itself, how it finds reasons to continue to flow, and how it finally discovers a place to settle at the end. We will also examine a number of verbal maneuvers that can brighten a poem and even liberate it from itself, much to everyone’s surprise and delight!
4 Mornings: Monday 11/11 – Thursday 11/14, 9:00am-12:00pm
The Next Poem – Billy Collins
Whenever the question comes up,
the poets all say the same thing:
the only poem we’re interested in is the next poem,
the one not written, the poem of tomorrow.
It’s a perfect answer,
which conjures up a bit of hope
and manages to place on the higher tray
of the scale of pride a gram of modesty.
But the problem is
as soon as you start to write it,
the next poem no longer is the next poem,
rather just another poem you are writing,
and the next poem has become
an imaginary mushroom waiting
in the future in a dark forest of pine needles.
And that is probably why I have lost interest
In this poem, in where it is going
or how it will manage to find a way to end.
It could droop into a reverie,
maybe shift to the doctor’s waiting room
where I am entering it into a notebook,
or circle back to that mushroom for all I care.
All I care about is the next poem,
not this current one,
which might even turn out to be my last—
the last orange on my miniature tree,
a shroud pulled over my baby grand,
the ultimate chirp of my canary,
or, how about this?
the final striped umbrella on the vacant beach of my soul?
Billy Collins’s level of fame is almost unprecedented in the world of contemporary poetry. He served two terms as the US poet laureate, from 2001-2003, was New York State poet laureate from 2004-2006, and is a regular guest on National Public Radio programs. In 2002 Collins was asked to write a poem commemorating the first anniversary of the fall of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on September 11. The reading was in front of a joint session of Congress held outside of Washington, DC.
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. He has taught at Columbia University, Sarah Lawrence, and Lehman College, City University of New York, where he is a Distinguished Professor.