Poet Laureate Billy Collins Is Coming to Dallas. Here Are Five Reasons You Should Care.

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Poetry Foundation
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.

And how will it ever end?
unless the day finally arrives
when we have compared everything in the world
to everything else in the world,

But he's published 11 collections of poetry, including last month's Aimless Love, so I guess that day isn't coming anytime soon.

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Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

The Revenant - Billy Collins

I am the dog you put to sleep,
as you like to call the needle of oblivion,
come back to tell you this simple thing:
I never liked you--not one bit.

When I licked your face,
I thought of biting off your nose.
When I watched you toweling yourself dry,
I wanted to leap and unman you with a snap.

I resented the way you moved,
your lack of animal grace,
the way you would sit in a chair to eat,
a napkin on your lap, knife in your hand.

I would have run away, 
but I was too weak, a trick you taught me
while I was learning to sit and heel,
and--greatest of insults--shake hands without a hand.

I admit the sight of the leash
would excite me
but only because it meant I was about 
to smell things you had never touched.

You do not want to believe this,
but I have no reason to lie.
I hated the car, the rubber toys,
disliked your friends and, worse, your relatives.

The jingling of my tags drove me mad.
You always scratched me in the wrong place.
All I ever wanted from you
was food and fresh water in my metal bowls.

While you slept, I watched you breathe
as the moon rose in the sky.
It took all of my strength
not to raise my head and howl.

Now I am free of the collar,
the yellow raincoat, monogrammed sweater,
the absurdity of your lawn,
and that is all you need to know about this place

except what you already supposed
and are glad it did not happen sooner--

that everyone here can read and write,
the dogs in poetry, the cats and the others in prose.


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