Billy Collins is one of the most widely read poets in America, and his witty, conversational poems illuminate the poignant details that often go unnoticed in everyday life. Within his archive at the Ransom Center are notebooks, drafts, proofs, and other documents relating to his poetry, essays, and other published works. His archive includes travel diaries, datebooks, sketchbooks and drawings, childhood writings, teaching materials, correspondence, and other materials that document his life ad career.
On Dec. 3, 2020, tune in to hear this celebrated poet read from his new collection, Whale Day (Penguin Random House, 2020), followed by a discussion with Ransom Center Director Stephen Enniss. U.S. Poet Laureate from 2001 to 2003, Collins is the author of 12 collections of poetry, including The Rain in Portugal, Aimless Love, Horoscopes for the Dead, Ballistics, The Trouble with Poetry, Nine Horses, and Sailing Alone Around the Room, among others. His new collection brings together more than 50 poems that highlight his deft mixing of the playful and the serious. Collins has said, “It is a good idea to get poetry off the shelves and into public life, ” and his “Poetry Broadcasts” on social media have infused poetry into the daily life of many during the COVID-19 pandemic, exemplifying the accessibility of his poetry. Please RSVP here for he program that will stream live on Facebook and YouTube.
—Poem excerpted from Whale Day and Other Poems (Penguin Random House, 2020) © Billy Collins.
We often fly in the sky together,
and we’re always okay—there’s our luggage now
waiting for us on the carousel.
And we drive lots of places
in all manner of hectic traffic,
yet here we are pulling in the driveway again.
So many opportunities to die together,
but no meteor has hit our house,
no tornado has lifted us into its funnel.
The odds say then that one of us will go
before the other, like heading off
into a heavy snow storm, leaving
the other one behind to stand in the kitchen
or lie on the bed under the fan.
So why not let me, the older one, go first?
I don’t want to see you everywhere
as I wait for the snow to stop,
before setting out with a crooked stick, calling your name.
© Billy Collins