For its fall benefit this Thursday, the Friends of the Dallas Public Library hosts An Evening with Billy Collins. The night's headliner is a literary giant, whom The New York Times dubbed "the most popular poet in America." From 2001-2003, Collins served as the United States' Poet Laureate, who functions as the nation's official poet -- a position appointed by the Library of Congress. The Thursday night event is sold out, but we've compiled a list of a few reasons you should care about his visit to Dallas.
His "Poetry 180" project If you attended a public high school from 2001-2003, your life was better because of Billy Collins. During his term as laureate, he distributed one poem per day to all American high schools. If you were too cool for these poems back then, or you were homeschooled, all of these poems are published in two anthologies titled Poetry 180. Thanks to the government, you can read them online for free, or your mom can buy them for you at Barnes & Noble.
His 9/11 Poem will break your heart He was serving as America's poet during one of the nation's greatest tragedies and the Librarian of Congress requested he write a poem in memoriam. He read The Names a year later on September 6, 2002, at special joint session of Congress to honor of the victims. He's only read it aloud twice and refuses to publish it in his book, because he doesn't believe in capitalizing on the attacks. You can read it here.
A YouTube video of a 3-year-old reciting Collins' poem "Litany" went viral This speaks to the accessibility of his poems for readers of all ages ... or it's just stupid cute. Watch it here.
He might be the most financially successful poet, ever The next time someone tells you poets can't make six figures, point to Billy Collins. In the late '90s, he received a six-figure advance for a three-book deal.
He understands "The Trouble with Poetry" In fact, he wrote a poem about it. But he doesn't write in flowery language or rhyming couplets, he writes in language real people use and tells stories that lead to stunning conclusions. In his poem "The Trouble with Poetry," he says the problem is that writing poetry just makes you want to write more.