The Poem in Search of an Ending
Collins has chosen ten poems for discussion. He writes, “I would like our time together to be spent in a freely ranging discussion of poetry. Initially, I want to treat the poems as if they were still in the process of being written so that we readers can experience the fits and starts that make up a poem’s composition. How a poem moves through itself in search of an ending has become more interesting to me than the question of what a poem means. Simply put, I would like us to focus on how poems begin, continue, and end. After all, that’s what every poem manages somehow to do. Of course, that is only one approach to poetry and a provisional one at that. Mostly, I am eager to learn from your questions.”
Matthew Arnold, “Dover Beach;” Elizabeth Bishop, “The Fish” and “One Art;” Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison;” Michael Donaghy, “The Break;” Leigh Hunt, “The Fish, the Man, and the Spirit;” Andrew Marvell, “To His Coy Mistress;” Yannis Ritsos, “The Myopic Child;” Ruth Schwartz, “The Swan at Edgewater Park;” and Richard Wilbur, “Love Calls Us to the Things of This World.”
Billy Collins has a unique place in American letters. No poet since Robert Frost combines such high critical acclaim with such broad popular appeal. He served as Poet Laureate of the United States, 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; and, most recently, Horoscopes for the Dead. He’s a Distinguished Professor at Lehman College.