On Tuesday, Feb. 12, Hobart and William Smith Colleges will host former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins at 7:30 p.m. in Albright Auditorium as the first President's Forum guest of 2008. A Professor at City University of New York and the former Poet Laureate of New York State, Collins' popularity is virtually unrivaled among contemporary poets. He has published eight collections, the last three breaking all known sales records for poetry.
During his visit, Collins will read some of his poems, answer questions and be available for a book signing.
Collins has pioneered a style of poetry he calls “travel poetry.” A good poem, Collins asserts, is one that starts out simple and inviting, and then shifts to more complex themes only after the reader's attention and interest is captured. The journey, then, is mental rather than physical.
“Luring his readers into the poem with humor, Mr. Collins leads them unwittingly into deeper, more serious places,” writes The New York Times, “a kind of journey from the familiar to quirky to unexpected territory, sometimes tender, often profound.”
Collins is currently at the center of a movement geared toward the re-popularization of poetry among adolescents, believing that exposing high school students to clear, understandable poetry will make the genre much more accessible, not to mention popular.
Growing up in New York City during the 1940s and '50s, Collins says he was as much influenced by nineteenth century Romanticism as he was by Beat poetry, the combination of which allowed him to create his own unique style, which has helped redefine literary success, receiving high critical as well as popular praise.
“I think clarity is the real risk in poetry because you are exposed,” Collins says. “You're actually saying things that are comprehensible, and it's easy to criticize something you can understand.”
These literary innovations and others have earned Collins fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Oscar Blumenthal and Bess Hokin prizes from Poetry magazine. He was United States Poet Laureate from 2001 to 2003 and the New York State Poet Laureate from 2004 to 2006.
Established by President Gearan in 2000, the President's Forum Series is designed to bring a variety of important figures to campus to share their knowledge and ideas with the entire HWS community as well as the residents of Geneva. The talk is free and open to the public; parking is available in the Medbery lot, across the Quad from Albright Auditorium.