» By TIFFANY COMER – tcomer@my.apsu.edu

Many people first learn of Billy Collins’ peoetry in their English 1010 or 1020 classes, where they can receive “a pale, delight insight on their first reading of poems,” Collins said. But in person, the poet has much more to offer.

On Friday, March 16, APSU was honored to have Collins on campus to deliver a free-to-attend reading in the Music/Mass Communication Concert Hall. Collins, a former U.S. Poet Laureate, has 13 volumes of poetry and honorable titles from various organizations — including the National Endowment for the Arts — and is a member of the Academy of American Poets. Collins also has two books translated into Italian and a website, Poetry 180, designed to provide students with “a poem a day.”

Collins recited 30 poems to an active audience, who saluted his poems with enthusiastic applause and laughter. The audience was made up of students and community members alike. Student Andrew Robinson first heard about the event in his fiction writing class, and many community members caught wind of the event from colleagues and The Leaf Chronicle.

Collins’ poetry is whimsical, because he can make a serious issue, such as death, funny. While speaking about one of his poems, Collins said, “Write a poem about your dead parent that makes people laugh; now that’s an assignment.”

Much of Collins’ poetry is humorous and many of his works are autobiographical. Some of the poems the audience enjoyed most were “Another Reason Why I Don’t Keep a Gun in the House,” “What She Said,” “The Lanyard,” and “Litany.”

Collins uses unique approaches when starting a new poem. In “The Golden Years,” Collins said he was “awestruck by the phenomena of condos and gated communities that had animal names,” and he found it funny the names of these communities were about animals that were uprooted from their habitats to make room for the developments.

“The reading was wonderful, hilarious, and witty and I have never enjoyed poetry in one sitting this much,” said student Michael Lardizabal.

Collins, giving advice to aspiring poets, said, “Why don’t you put a dog in your poem? It would be a break from your self- absorption.”

Collins writes all of his poems in one setting and is interested in poems that “maneuver themselves to an unexpected ending.” Collins said he wishes for his readers to experience “disorientation” in his poetry, as well as a desire to “read it again just to take the ride again.” TAS