Everyday Moments Caught in Time: Billy Collins’ Poetry

Well, it is Wednesday and time for another TED Talk, although I know Ted Talk Wednesdays doesn’t have quite the ring that TED Talk Tuesdays has, as I mentioned before.

I don’t know who my favorite author is – that is a very complex question for me, and the answer changes depending on my mood, the season, or what I have just read. But I would say that my favorite poet is Billy Collins. I know that’s not ground breaking in the poetry world – he was Poet Laureate of both the US and New York State after all. But I enjoy his work.

In 2012, Billy Collins talked at a TED conference about the process some of his poems went through as they were paired with animation. Collins explains that originally he was against poetry being paired with another medium, that it would simplify poetry to much, and would dissect all the analytical content for the reader. But his love of comics and animation won him over (he claims that Bugs Bunny is his muse) and he decided to undertake this new project.

One of the pros of the animation project, Collins says, was that it got “poetry off the page and into modern life.” As a poet he is a fan of poetry on cereal boxes and subway cars (such as the MTA’s Poetry in Motion initiative, which has recently featured Collins’ poem Grand Central for the centennial celebration of the train station).

Collins claims that seeing poetry in this form makes it more accessible. “It happens so fast,” he says, “that you don’t have time to activate your anti-poetry shields that you developed in high school”.

I found some of the animations to be a bit strange, but one that I particularly liked was Budapest (probably because it talks about the creative process): 

I particularly like the way that, as the title of the TED talk states, Billy Collins can take ordinary elements of life, and prolong them in his poems into something meaningful.

I will never forget studying for my AP English exam junior year. I had bought one of the standardized test review books and was pouring over it the night before the exam, analyzing stanza after stanza of hugely complex metaphysical poetry. It was not going well, and I went to bed that night panicked for the exam the next day.

When I sat down to take this dreaded test, and got to the short answer section where we had to analyze a poem, I was unbelievably relieved to see a Billy Collins poem staring up at me. So much more pleasant than some complex metaphysical jargon. I actually remember enjoying myself as I wrote my response to the poem, and that was while I was taking an AP. Who knew?

I liked Billy Collins before this as well. I first became aware of him in tenth grade and devoured his books that year, but when I think Billy Collins, that memory is the first one to come to mind. Billy Collins will always hold a special place in my heart as my favorite poet.


2 thoughts on “Everyday Moments Caught in Time: Billy Collins’ Poetry

  1. Pingback: The world’s best ‘Give me a break’ poem | The Drugstore Notebook

  2. Pingback: How to Organize Your Books 101 | goodbookscents

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