Last night I went on a solo adventure to Westbury, NY to see the amazing poet Billy Collins. I can honestly say that he is one of the most inspiring poets to watch read. His combination of wisdom and humor comes across when you read his books, but seeing it in person was incredibly memorable.
After his reading, he did a Q&A. I had thought about what question to ask all day, but couldn’t decide. So when he called on me I said, “I have ten thousand questions, but I’m going to ask the most cliche one. What’s your advice for an aspiring poet?”
He nicely gave a very long answer and was quite conversational. Part of what he said was, “Reading! You read other poets and eventually you start to imitate the ones you like and then you take little pieces from what you learned and make your own poet soup. Soon you’ll develop your own style and you’ll stop imitating others, and just imitate yourself. I’m sorry if that’s not the sexiest answer, but reading is the answer.”
Obviously I was super happy about that. Then to top it all off I got to meet him. When he saw me he commented on my distinct laugh, which was embarrassing but awesome at the same time. He was so kind and I nervously gave him a poem entitled “In a Theatre with Billy,” which would surely make Ezra Pound roll over in his grave. Obviously it wasn’t the greatest poem, but I wanted to be a memorable fan. He asked to keep it, so that’s good.
Overall, it was a truly memorable experience that I feel lucky to have had. To hear him read my favorite poem “Monday” brought a tear to my eye. Thanks for being an inspiration Billy.