Billy Collins was born on March 22, 1941 in New York City. He began to write poetry at age twelve and joined a magazine at school to help refine his literary skills. After completing primary school, he attended college at the College of the Holy Cross where he received his Bachelor’s degree, and he received his PhD from the University of California-Riverside. Soon after completing his PhD studies, he married Diane Olbright in 1971. Although he is most famous for his witty and relatable poems, he is also a professor at the City University of New York. He plays Adderly-mode jazz on a piano when he wants to a break from writing, and he is an active golfer.
Although he had written a few other poems in the past, Billy Collins was not well known until his poem “Questions about Angels” was published in 1991. His poem was selected to take part in the National Poetry Series where he was able to flaunt his work and earn his first published writing. Collins was asked to write a poem about the events on September 11, 2001, and due to its vast popularity, it was read out loud in Washington D.C.
Other poets have trouble connecting with their audience; however, Collins has no trouble doing so according to recent reviews. He is able to write sincere poems that his audience can not only enjoy but relate to their own lives. Even though Collins might write poems about a serious topic, he always adds a hint of comic relief in each poem to lighten the tone. He performs on the National Public Radio station and is well known by the audience. Collins was awarded the Poet Laureate in 2001 and kept the title for two years. This was awarded to him because of his excellence in writing poetry while connecting with his audience. Some people say that his poems are easy to understand and draw a connection to while other poets want people to search and try to find the meaning of the poem. Collins is able to blatantly say what he wants his audience to gain from the poem.
Collins gets most of his inspiration from talking to himself and discerning the thoughts that come across his mind every minute. He does not revise his poems very often because he feels that his raw material is his best work. He also suggests that poems should be written as one continuous thought because if a poem is thrown together from ideas written down in the past, it will look like torn pieces of paper taped together.
Collins has won countless awards and continues to wow his audience every time he releases a new poem. Fortunately, Collins is still living and writing poetry today. His most recent work was published in 2016, and it was named, “The Rain in Portugal.”