Billy Collins (born March 22, 1941) is an American poet who served two terms as the 44th Poet Laureate of the United States, from 2001 to 2003. In his home state, he has been recognized as a Literary Lion of the New York Public Library and selected as the New York State Poet for 2004. He is a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross and the University of California, Riverside.
Although Collins's poetry is often compared to that of Robert Frost, it is marked by a rejection of restrictive forms such as the sonnet, sestina, and villanelle. For instance, his poem Sonnet begins All we need is fourteen lines, well, thirteen now, and continues in this vein; the sonnet is fourteen lines, but does not rhyme and is not, until the final line, iambic pentameter. He invented the poetic form of the paradelle as a hoax to parody the villanelle, using his mock Paradelle for Susan; the paradelle is emblematic of his rejection of formal poetry.
In his work, Collins has also spoken out against obtuse constructions and over-interpretation of poems. Most of Collins's work is clear and accessible to lay readers and occasionally critical of poets writing only for other poets or academics. Collins shares this outlook with his successor as poet laureate, American poet Ted Kooser.
As poet laureate, Collins published a collection of poems called Poetry 180, a collection of 180 poems (one for each day of the typical school year) that he considers accessible to the majority of readers. Collins is in the center of the movement to re-popularize poetry among adolescent readers. Collins now has two Poetry 180 collections, the first of which he opens with his own poem Introduction to Poetry, a poem that encourages enjoyment of poetry and discourages interpretation that would tie the poem to a chair with rope/ and torture a confession out of it or join those who begin beating it with a hose/ to find out what it really means. He sugests that readers water ski across the surface.