One of the ridiculous aspects of being a poet is the huge gulf between how seriously we take ourselves and how generally we are ignored by everybody else.

— Billy Collins

The most undeniable Billy Collins quotes that are little-known but priceless

But tomorrow, dawn will come the way I picture her, barefoot and disheveled, standing outside my window in one of the fragile cotton dresses of the poor. She will look in at me with her thin arms extended, offering a handful of birdsong and a small cup of light.

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Poetry is like standing on the edge of a lake on a moonlit night and the light of the moon is always pointing straight at you.

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While the novelist is banging on his typewriter, the poet is watching a fly in the windowpane.

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A sentence starts out like a lone traveler heading into a blizzard at midnight, tilting into the wind, one arm shielding his face, the tails of his thin coat flapping behind him.

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And strangely enoughthe only emotion I ever feel, is what the beaver must feel, as he bears each stick to his hidden construction, which creates the tranquil pond and gives the mallards somewhere to paddle, and the pair of swans a place to conceal their young

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The poem is not, as someone put it, deflective of entry.

But the real question is, 'What happens to the reader once he or she gets inside the poem?' That's the real question for me, is getting the reader into the poem and then taking the reader somewhere, because I think of poetry as a kind of form of travel writing.

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No one here likes a wet dog.

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And I should mention the light which falls through the big windows this time of day italicizing everything it touches.

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Radio is such a perfect medium for the transmission of poetry, primarily because there just is the voice, there's no visual distraction.

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You will always be the bread and the knife, not to mention the crystal goblet and—somehow—the wine.

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I can hear the library humming in the night, a choir of authors murmuring inside their books along the unlit, alphabetical shelves, Giovanni Pontano next to Pope, Dumas next to his son, each one stitched into his own private coat, together forming a low, gigantic chord of language.

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Death is what makes life fun.

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About Billy Collins

Quotes 105 sayings
Profession Poet
Birthday October 16

I think more influential than Emily Dickinson or Coleridge or Wordsworth on my imagination were Warner Brothers, Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes cartoons.

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It is as if one by one, the memories you used to harbor decided to retire to the Southern Hemisphere of the brain.

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I think my work has to do with a sense that we are attempting, all the time, to create a logical, rational path through the day. To the left and right there are an amazing set of distractions that we usually can't afford to follow. But the poet is willing to stop anywhere.

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Bugs Bunny is my muse.

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Poetry is my cheap means of transportation, by the end of the poem the reader should be in a different place from where he started. I would like him to be slightly disoriented at the end, like I drove him outside of town at night and dropped him off in a cornfield.

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This is not what it is like to be you, I realized as a few of your magnificent clouds flew over the rooftop. It is just me thinking about being you. And before I headed back down the hill, I walked in a circle around your house, making an invisible line which you would have to cross before dark.

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The first line is the DNA of the poem;

the rest of the poem is constructed out of that first line. A lot of it has to do with tone because tone is the key signature for the poem. The basis of trust for a reader used to be meter and end-rhyme.

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I was an only child, a very late child, born to parents who were both 39 at the time, which was very late back then. That kind of confirmed my sense of being the center of the universe, which I guess every child feels - children and poets both tend to feel.

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Often people, when they're confronted with a poem, it's like someone who keep saying 'what is the meaning of this? What is the meaning of this?' And that dulls us to the other pleasures poetry offers.

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I sit in the dark and wait for a little flame to appear at the end of my pencil.

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life is a loaded gun that looks right at you with a yellow eye.

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It seems only yesterday I used to believe there was nothing under my skin but light. If you cut me I could shine.

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There's this pet phrase about writing that is bandied around particularly in workshops about "finding your own voice as a poet", which I suppose means that you come out from under the direct influence of other poets and have perhaps found a way to combine those influences so that it appears to be your own voice.

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High School is the place where poetry goes to die.

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Some difficulty is warranted and other difficulty I think is gratuitous.

And I think I can tell the difference. There are certainly very difficult poets that I really enjoy reading.

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One of these days I'm-a make me a book out of you.

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But some nights, I must tell you, I go down there after everyone has fallen asleep. I swim back and forth in the echoing blackness. I sing a love song as well as I can, lost for a while in the home of the rain.

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Introduction To Poetry I ask them to take a poem and hold it up to the light like a color slide or press an ear against its hive. I say drop a mouse into a poem and watch him probe his way out, or walk inside the poem's room and feel the walls for a light switch. I want them to waterski across the surface of a poem waving at the author's name on the shore. But all they want to do is tie the poem to a chair with rope and torture a confession out of it. They begin beating it with a hose to find out what it really means.

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Robert Frost really started this whole thing rolling.

He was, I believe, the first poet who started going to colleges. Before that, poets didn't give public readings very often, certainly not - there was no circuit of schools.

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I see all of us reading ourselves away from ourselves, straining in circles of light to find more light until the line of words becomes a trail of crumbs that we follow across a page of fresh snow.

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I see the progress typical in some of my poems as starting with something simple and moving into something more demanding. This is certainly the pattern of weird poetry.

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The really authentic thing about humor is that anyone can pretend to be serious.

Anyone who's ever had a job - in fact, we're pretending to be serious now, more or less.

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By clarity I don't mean that we're always in kind of a simple area where everything is clear and comforting and understood. Clarity is certainly a way toward disorientation because if you don't start out - if the reader isn't grounded, if the reader is disoriented in the beginning of the poem, then the reader can't be led astray or disoriented later.

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Poems are not easy to start, and they're not easy to finish.

There's a great pleasure in - I wouldn't say ease, but maybe kind of a fascinated ease that accompanies the actual writing of the poem. I find it very difficult to get started.

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Another trouble with poetry - and I'm gonna stop the list at two - is the presence of presumptuousness in poetry, the sense you get in a poem that the poet takes for granted an interest on the reader's part in the poet's autobiographical life, in the poet's memories, problems, difficulties and even minor perceptions.

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To write poetry is to be very alone, but you always have the company of your influences. But you also have the company of the form itself, which has a kind of consciousness. I mean, the sonnet will simply tell you, that's too many syllables or that's too many lines or that's the wrong place. So, instead of being alone, you're in dialogue with the form.

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I can't picture myself starting out aiming to do anything or having much of an agenda.I think in writing a poem, I'm making some tonal adjustments, and it took me a long time to allow anything like fun into my poetry.

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I just think that the world of workshops - I've written a poem that is a parody of workshop talk, I've written a poem that is a kind of parody of a garrulous poet at a poetry reading who spends an inordinate amount of time explaining the poem before reading it, I've written a number of satirical poems about other poets.

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I think my poems are slightly underrated by the word accessible.

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When you get a poem [in a public place], it happens to you so suddenly that you don't have time to deploy your anti-poetry deflector shields that were installed in high school.

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But my heart is always propped up in a field on its tripod, ready for the next arrow.

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You come by your style by learning what to leave out.

At first you tend to overwrite—embellishment instead of insight. You either continue to write puerile bilge, or you change. In the process of simplifying oneself, one often discovers the thing called voice.

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The name of the author is the first to go followed obediently by the title, the plot, the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel which suddenly becomes one you have never read, never even heard of, as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain, to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

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I think what gets a poem going is an initiating line.

Sometimes a first line will occur, and it goes nowhere; but other times - and this, I think, is a sense you develop - I can tell that the line wants to continue. If it does, I can feel a sense of momentum - the poem finds a reason for continuing.

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The mind can be trained to relieve itself on paper.

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This love for everyday things, part natural from the wide eye of Infancy, part a literary calculation

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Now I would say at any given moment in American life, there are probably 45 poets in airplanes vectoring across the country heading towards...I don't know if anyone's reading it, but poets are still flying around the country going from lectern to lectern.That circuitry has become very well-established.

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