Billy Collins

Billy Collins Poems

Billy Collins is an American poet who served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003. He has often been referred to as the “most popular poet in America.” His poems are famously witty and often include surprising twists and turns. He was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2016. Read more about Billy Collins.

The History Teacher

by Billy Collins

In ‘The History Teacher,’ the titular educator neglects to teach his students about the cold, hard realities of the past in order to protect their innocence from reality.

Trying to protect his students' innocence

he told them the Ice Age was really just

the Chilly Age, a period of a million years

when everyone had to wear sweaters.

Aimless Love

by Billy Collins

In ‘Aimless Love,” the speaker finds himself falling love with the precarious beauty of everyday life.

As the title of his 2013 collection, 'Aimless Love' is an excellent example of Collins' particular brand of witty lyricism and his career-long focus on ordinary life. He draws the reader in through images from all areas of life, which is characteristic of his accessible but deceptively simple poetry.

This morning as I walked along the lakeshore,

I fell in love with a wren

and later in the day with a mouse

the cat had dropped under the dining room table.

My Number

by Billy Collins

‘My Number’ by Billy Collins takes a jocular approach to wrangling with the existential anxieties brought on when thinking about death.

This is a poem from Billy Collins that displays all his wit and profundity in one. It balances with humor and irony an intimate introspection about death, one that both makes light of this very universal fear by poking fun at humanity's terror over such an inevitable part of life. Collins' use of personification renders the figure of death into something dually foreboding and oddly personable.

Is Death miles away from this house,

reaching for a widow in Cincinnati

or breathing down the neck of a lost hiker

in British Columbia?

Man Listening to Disc

by Billy Collins

‘Man Listening to Disc’ is a poem written by “the most popular poet in America”, Billy Collins. This poem presents the poet’s feelings while listening to jazz music.

Explore more poems from Billy Collins

The Art of Drowning

by Billy Collins

I wonder how it all got started, this business

about seeing your life flash before your eyes

while you drown, as if panic, or the act of submergence,

could startle time into such compression, crushing

decades in the vice of your desperate, final seconds.

The Dead

by Billy Collins

‘The Dead’ eliminates the gap between the living and the poor. It draws our attention to the fact that the dead are always watching us and waiting for our arrival.

The Revenant

by Billy Collins

In the poem, ‘The Revenant’, Billy Collins channels the spirit of a deceased dog and subverts the accepted relationship of man and his best friend.

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