The New York Times has called him “the most popular poet in America.” Former two-term U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins made a name for himself with poems about falling in love and aging, and that reflect the beauty and poignance of everyday life. His latest collection, “Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems,” includes work from four of his previously published collections as well as 50 new pieces. He joins us in the studio.

Billy Collins, distinguished professor of English at Lehman College; former U.S. Poet Laureate from 2001-2003; and author of over a dozen books, including "The Art of Drowning," "Nine Horses" and most recently, "Aimless Love"

  • Fyza Parviz

    What does Mr.Collins think about memorizing poetry and which poems has he memorized? And any favorite poems?

  • Jon Gold

    Does Billy Collins ever tweet? And how does he feel about the 140 characters format? Is it a limit or a concentrated focus for quips?!

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    Can Billy comment on doing ‘The Writer’s Almanac’ heard on NPR stations? He came across rather somber, speaking slowly and dirge-like. Whereas on the show this morning, Billy has a lilt in his voice and a wink in his eye! Comment on mood, please. I try to fight my tendency towards melancholy and I prefer to read poetry that makes me chuckle or laugh out loud. It can be so therapeutic!

    Link to the writer’s almanac here:

    • Fay Nissenbaum

      Thanks for reading it on air, Michael!

  • laura

    I adore you.

    What poem would you want read at your funeral?

  • Stephanie Friedman

    When I was a kid in school, we had to memorize and recite a poem. A form of torture? Or does it give kids–and grown-ups–a personal connection to poetry and a lifelong appreciation? Or is there no connection whatsoever?! Will Billy Collins comment?

  • michael

    I’ve always been curious as to what Mr. Collins’ thoughts are about the poet Bob Holman, thanks in advance…

  • Laurey Greider

    There used to be a car with magnetic poetry words that traveled around people made poetry everywhere it went

  • Nick Shryock

    Please sir more Collins less Kranzy.

    • Fay Nissenbaum

      Lol – love it! You’re totally right, sir.

  • PRuse

    Love that Billy mentioned Kenneth Koch and perhaps was influenced by his writing. Many moons ago I taught poetry to kids in the public schools using Koch’s wonderful books from the Poetry in Schools days. Thanks, PRuse

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    My youthful memories are still traumatized delightfully by learning this one:
    “It’s not the cough that carries ya off,
    it’s the coffin they carry you off in.”

  • Phillip Remaker

    Why does Twitter have a 140 character limit? I’m afraid the answer is more mundane than Billy and Michael’s musing. Twitter started off life intending to be tightly integrated with mobile devices, but it was conceived in the pre-smartphone era. Recall that phones of that era predominantly used SMS (Short Message Service, a.k.a. Text Messaging), which has an inherent 160 character limit. Since Twitter reserved a block of 20 characters to hold the the username (handle) of the person sending the tweet, the remaining space formed the distinctive 140 character limit of the service.

    For completeness: Communications researcher Friedhelm Hillebrand empirically established the 160 character limit back in 1985 by analyzing postcard and Telex messages. He and his team had to piggyback the SMS protocol on top of the mobile voice signalling system which could carry 128 bytes in a message.


    • Tea Bagger

      Does anybody else remember punched cards and card readers? Can you remember how many columns there were in a punched card?

      • Phillip Remaker

        80 columns. This legacy carries on in the fact that most character terminals (including MacOS Terminal and the Windows Command prompt) still default to 80 columns all these years later.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor