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Billy Collins "puts the 'fun' back in profundity," says poet Alice Fulton. Known for what he has called "hospitable" poems, which deftly blend wit and erudition, Collins (b. 1941) is a poet of nearly unprecedented popularity. His work is also critically esteemed and well represented in The Norton Anthology of American Literature
. An English professor for five decades, Collins was fifty-seven when his poetry began gathering considerable international attention. Conversations with Billy Collins
chronicles the poet's career beginning with his 1998 interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air
, which exponentially expanded his readership, three years prior to his being named United States Poet Laureate. Other interviewers range from George Plimpton, founder of the Paris Revi
, to Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Henry Taylor to a Presbyterian pastor, a physics professor, and a class of AP English Literature students.
Over the course of the twenty-one interviews included in the volume, Collins discusses such topics as discovering his persona, that consistently affable voice that narrates his often wildly imaginative poems; why poetry is so loved by children but often met with anxiety by high school students; and his experience composing a poem to be recited during a joint session of Congress on the first anniversary of 9/11, a tragedy that occurred during his tenure as poet laureate. He also explores his love of jazz, his distaste for gratuitously difficult poetry and autobiographical poems, and his beguiling invention of a mock poetic form: the paradelle. Irreverent, incisive, and deeply life-affirming--like his twelve volumes of poetry--these interviews, gathered for the first time in one volume, will edify and entertain readers in the way his sold-out readings have done for the past quarter century.