Billy Collins is the most popular American poet since Robert Frost, and for good reason. Having read nearly every poem he has published, I can attest to his appeal. His poems set the table with full platters of literary and historical knowledge, tell stories full of spirits, and weave them together with a keen sense of humor and personal insight.
His poems have become popular enough that he was asked to take part in an artistic experiment of sorts: readings of his poems combined with graphic illustrations set to video. As he explains in the following talk at TED, he was reluctant at first, but relented. The results you will have to judge for yourself.
If you only have a few minutes, don’t miss the segment in which he reads “To My Favorite 17-Year-Old High-School Girl”
When I first saw these animations I was already very well acquainted with each of the poems in both print and audio, and found the visual element added a curious but captivating dimension. I would be interested to hear what people encountering them for the first time think. My own sense is that it was a well executed experiment in adding a visual element to some wonderful narrative poetry.
If you’re interested in reading or hearing more you can find all of Collins’ books on his website, and The Best Cigarette is and excellent collection of poems from his readings. In my opinion he’s as delightful to listen to as he is to read.