Three Poets Laureate: A Reading
A reading with a single US poet laureate would be special. A reading with three of them is remarkable. Each of these great poets has profound respect for teachers and was eager to take part.
Billy Collins has a unique place in American letters. No poet since Robert Frost combines such high critical acclaim with such broad popular appeal. His books break sales records and his readings are often standing room only. His books include Questions about Angels; The Art of Drowning; Picnic, Lightning; Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes; Sailing Alone around the Room; Nine Horses; The Trouble with Poetry; Ballistics; Horoscopes for the Dead; and, most recently, The Rain in Portugal. He’s an emeritus professor at Lehman College. He served as US poet laureate from 2001 to 2003.
Charles Simic, poet, essayist, and translator, was born in Yugoslavia in 1938 and immigrated to the United States in 1954. Since 1967, he has published 20 books of his own poetry, in addition to a memoir; the essay collection The Life of Images; and numerous books of translations, for which he has received many literary awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, the Griffin Prize, the MacArthur Fellowship, and the Wallace Stevens Award. Simic is a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books and served as US poet laureate from 2007 to 2008. He has taught at New York University and at the University of New Hampshire, where he is professor emeritus.
Tracy K. Smith, the current US poet laureate, won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Life on Mars, her third book of poetry. She published her memoir, Ordinary Light, in 2015, and her fourth book of poetry, Wade in the Water, in 2018. She earned a BA from Harvard and an MFA from Columbia. She teaches creative writing at Princeton.