Last night I had the great pleasure of hearing former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins read at the Hoover (Alabama) Library as part of the Southern Voices literary conference. Collins gave a very funny reading, ranging from playful to fanciful to surreal to satirical, at the end of which he reminded the audience that "all literature is about death," so "English majors are really majoring in death." (He noted that a number of the poems he had just read were set in cemeteries.) But we come to literature, he said, because, though the content may be sad, the form is happy--in other words, we will endure and even welcome dark subjects when they come to us with the satisfactions of literary form.
Collins' anthology of contemporary poetry,Poetry 180, developed for use in high schools but which I've used happily in both prison and university classrooms, is a fine resource for teachers but also an excellent choice for anyone who wants to read poetry but doesn't know where to start. Collins' avowed purpose with this book is "to beckon people back to poetry by offering them a variety of poems that might snag their interest. I am convinced that for every nonreader of poetry there is a poem waiting to reconnect them to poetry."
Last night's audience was already connected--in fact, we were an audience of early birds, as it turned out that tickets for the reading had sold out in the first four hours--but judging by the enthusiasm of the standing ovation and one "Whoo-hooer" sitting in the next row, lovers of poetry are all around us.
- Jennifer Horne
- I’m a writer, editor, and teacher, and I enjoy connecting with readers and other writers. I grew up in Arkansas and am a long-time resident of Alabama, and in November 2017 I was commissioned Alabama Poet Laureate, for a four-year term. My latest book is a poetry chapbook, "Borrowed Light," and my current writing project is a biography of the writer Sara Mayfield. I call this blog "A Map of the World" because I think that, as writers, we each map our own lives, imaginations, and world. Welcome to my particular map!