Poet Billy Collins to Read at Featherstone

Billy Collins
Billy Collins. Photo by Barbi Reed

By Brooks Robards - August 16, 2007

Best-selling poet Billy Collins will read from his work at Featherstone Center for the Arts on Saturday, August 18, at 7:30 pm. Mr. Collins served as the nation's 11th Poet Laureate from 2001 to 2003.

Although known for popularizing poetry, Mr. Collins says that reputation was "constructed without any help from me." He describes himself as a great reader and appreciator of formal poetry, with a taste for poetry that is mentally and imaginatively challenging. "I love Wallace Stevens and Hart Crane," he says.

Mr. Collins will make his first visit to the Island for Saturday's reading, and while here will also attend a reception Friday night and lead a workshop during the day on Saturday.

"Tragically, I have never been on the Vineland," he said in a recent e-mail. "And I suppose only one visit will not qualify me for an MV car sticker. I should look this up, but frankly I don't know which Martha is involved here." He plans to spend time among the local birds, explaining, "Surely that, and gazing at the moon, are part of a poet's job description."

Mr. Collins, who teaches literature at Lehman College in New York and in 2005 won the first Mark Twain Prize for Humor in Poetry, will read a selection of old and new poems, say a little about them and talk how they came into being.

"I usually try to mix humorous poems with serious ones, so as to leave the audience emotionally confused," he says. "As far as a theme, I suppose I am the theme. Oh, and also death. Me and death. My two big themes."

Mr. Collins's reading is a fund-raising event arranged by Featherstone poet in residence Fan Ogilvie of West Tisbury and Aquinnah. Ms. Ogilvie shares that position with Justen Ahren, and they team-teach a poetry workshop at Featherstone.

The Collins reading will be held under a tent in the meadow at Featherstone. Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis for a $15 donation. Copies of Mr. Collins's books will be on sale, of which the most recent are, "The Apple That Astonished Paris," "The Trouble With Poetry and Other Poems," and "Nine Horses."