NEW PALTZ — Noted poet and award-winning author of a half-dozen books of poetry, Billy Collins, will present a reading at the State University of New York at New Paltz on Thursday, May 6. His presentation is sponsored by the William Vasse Poetry Series in conjunction with the Honors Program. The 7 p.m. program will be held in Lecture Center 102. The reading is free and open to the public. A book signing will follow.
Billy Collins is a professor of English at Lehman College of the City University of New York. In 1994, he was honored as Poet of the Year by Poetry magazine. Among his books are Questions About Angels, The Apple that Astonished Paris, and The Art of Drowning. The latter, published by University of Pittsburgh Press, in 1995, was a finalist for the 1996 Lenore Marshall Prize and outsold all poetry books at Posman Books (Manhattan) in the first year of its printing. His CD of poetry, The Best Cigarette, sold out in its first pressing.
Cynthia Magriel Wetzler, writing in The New York Times, said of Billy Collins, “Luring his readers into the poem with humor, Mr. Collins leads them unwittingly into deeper, more serious places, a kind of journey from the familiar or quirky to unexpected territory, sometimes tender, often profound.”
“Poetry is clearly very serious for me,” said Collins in the Times article, “but without heaviness or a glib sense of spirituality. I wouldn’t set myself up that way. I think humor is a very serious thing. I use it as a way of weakening the reader’s defenses so that I can more easily take him to something more.”
Collin’s poetry has appeared in anthologies, textbooks, and a variety of periodicals, including American Poetry Review, Harper’s, The New Yorker, and Paris Review. His work has also been included in the Pushcart Prize anthology and The Best American Poetry for 1992, 1993, and 1997. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. His many awards include the Oscar Blumenthal Prize, the Bess Hokin Prize and the Levinson Prize. In 1992, he was chosen by the New York Public Library to serve as a “Literary Lion.”
Of the poet, John Updike has said that Billy Collins writes poems which “describe all the worlds that are and were and some others besides.”
“Poetry is my cheap means of transportation,” says Collins. “By the end of the poem the reader should be in a different place from where he started. I would like him to be slightly disoriented at the end, like I drove him outside of town at night and dropped him off in a cornfield.”
On the afternoon of the poetry reading, Collins will lead “A Poetry Conversation,” in which writing by SUNY New Paltz students will be discussed. The talk will begin at 4 p.m. in the Honors Center, located in College Hall. The public is invited. There is no charge.
Editors/writers: For more information, contact Pauline Uchmanowicz, English department, SUNY New Paltz. 845.257.2755.