Billy Collins
New U.S. Poet Laureate Talks About Fame, and His New Job

audio Listen to Noah Adams' interview with Billy Collins on All Things Considered.

Sept. 4, 2001 -- By most measures, Billy Collins is just another above-average guy in New York City. A 60-year-old college professor, soft spoken, bald on top. He's learning to play jazz piano, loves dogs -- and he's also the newly minted Poet Laureate of the United States.

Billy Collins
Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate
Photo: Joann Carney

Collins takes the job this coming fall, and he recently sat down for a conversation with All Things Considered co-host Noah Adams about his newfound fame and his new book, "Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems."

Bestowing the title of Poet Laureate falls to Librarian of Congress James Billington. Past laureates have included Williams Carlos Williams and Gwendolyn Brooks.

It's an honor that can only help to elevate Collins' status -- a difficult thing to do for someone whose six books (and one audio CD) have already sold more than 100,000 copies, a major achievement by any poet.

And not at all bad for a professor of English composition at a New York City college. Part of Collins' appeal, critics say, is the generosity of his words -- his work is often called "accessible." Collins, in an interview with The New York Times, discourages the word, preferring instead the term "hospitable."

Other Resources:

Collins' talent agency Barclay Agency

The official Collins Web site with links to his poems

Collins profile by the Academy of American poets