June 20 the news broke that Lehman Colleges newly appointed
Distinguished Professor of English Billy Collins, faculty
member since 1969, will be the nations next Poet Laureate,
succeeding Stanley Kunitz. Asked what his initial reaction
was to joining the august ranks of American bards, Collins
summoned up a characteristically bemusing image: It
came completely out of the blue, like a soft wrecking ball
from outer space.
Since his Questions About Angels appeared in 1991, Collins
has published several volumes of poetry to increasing acclaim.
His ninth collection, Sailing Alone Around the Room, has just
appeared from Random House.
Collins officially assumes his Laureate dutiesand his
office in the Library of Congressin October, when he
delivers his inaugural reading. CUNYMatters will report
more fully on Collins Laureate year in a later issue.
In the meantime, readers may wish to sample the wry smile
of the Collins style in Sonnet. Here the poet
offers a subversive take on the intricate Petrarchan/Shakespearean
sonnet form that is a little more bumptious than Wordsworths
genteel Scorn Not the Sonnet.