Image by Marcelo Noah

John Updike described Billy Collins’s poems as “more serious than they seem.” And indeed, while Collins’ poems are often laugh-out-loud funny, many end on a touching, sometimes somber note.

Billy Collins is one of the most well-known and financially successful poets in the United States. He was the United States poet laureate from 2001 to 2003 and the New York State poet laureate from 2004 to 2006. On the first anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, he was asked to write a commemorative poem, which he read to both houses of Congress. (See him read the poem on 9-11-2011).

Billy Collins has published fourteen collections of poetry to date. He has received the Mark Twain Prize for Humor Poetry and fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. His work has appealed numerous times in the Best American Poetry, and he edited the 2006 edition of this series.

Video: 3-year-old recites poem, “Litany” by Billy Collins. The little boy eventually got to meet the poet.

You also might enjoy this interview with Billy Collins from The Writer’s Almanac Bookshelf.