In 2002 Billy Collins filled Ives Hall at WCSU in Danbury
by Mar Walker
It was like a reunion. On a Monday evening, Oct. 7, 2002, wild poets of all ages and philosophies came down from the hills, from area academia, from the kitchens of suburbia, from Waterbury and Weschester to hear the poet laureate of the United States. Some hadn't seen each other in years. Not only was the lower floor of Ives Concert Hall crowded, the balcony also harbored a hundred or so listeners.
After a short introduction, Billy Collins read for an hour. His low-key reading style offered a human vision replete with backhanded Bob Newhart humor. His voice sounded familiar, like a favortie uncle telling stories on the porch. After the reading, he answered questions then patiently signed books for a long line of admirers, which took over an hour. He was not able to attend the post reading reception, held in the downstairs bandroom behind the auditorium.
Most loved it, a few were looking for political passion. Gerard Brooker, a co-host with the Bethel Art Junction's Wednesday night Poetry series, asked Mr. Collins if, as a poet laureate, he didn't feel some obligation to write a poem about the "situation" with Iraq. Mr. Collins said he believed that the term political poetry was something of an oxymoron, (an opinion shared by former poet laureate Stanley Kunitz). He referenced Yeats (something about a poem being a very little thing, and who is a poet to inform a diplomate.) He added that good political poetry was extremely difficult to write.
In response another question, Mr. Collins said that a poet laureate 's life involves a lot of traveling and official functions, which leave little time for pondering or writing. A very young poetess asked Mr. Collins where he got his ideas. He replied with an example. After sitting on a park bench and noticing a white chess piece, a knight, lying in the grass alone, he pondered about the other pieces and where they might be. He read the poem to illustrate how a simple observation had grown into something more.
The reading was video taped by arts afficiando and video-wiz Gregory Davis, and may be broadcast on Charter and or Comcast stations. Call your local public assess channel for information.
---- Mar (Mistryel) Walker