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. On November 1, 2017, I was commissioned Alabama's Poet Laureate, for a four-year term. I grew up in Arkansas and have lived for many years in Alabama, although I’ve also lived abroad, in England and Romania, and have traveled extensively in Ireland and Greece. I’ve written two collections of poems, "Little Wanderer" (2016) a collection of road and travel poems, and "Bottle Tree" (2010), which focuses on my experiences as a southern woman. I’ve also written "Tell the World You’re a Wildflower," a collection of loosely interwoven short stories in the voices of southern women and girls. I love to put together collections as well, and I edited "Working the Dirt: An Anthology of Southern Poets," and co-edited, with Wendy Reed, "All Out of Faith: Southern Women on Spirituality," and "Circling Faith: Southern Women on Spirituality," as well as "Belles’ Letters II: Contemporary Fiction by Alabama Women," co-edited with Don Noble. I’m currently working on a memoir-influenced book about Scott and Zelda biographer Sara Mayfield as well as a new collection of short stories.