The Cortland Review


Kurt Brown
Poetry and the Language of Adam considers language from where it began—"the language of the body, the senses, the language of the Eden we have and not the ideal, abstract one we seek."

Kurt Brown

Who Knows Where and Marston’s Field, two new poems by Kurt Brown

Billy Collins

Excerpts from a conversation led by Paula Gordon and Bill Russell, a special audio program of The Paula Gordon Show.

Lucille Clifton
The Power of Mercy, a book review by Teresa Ballard, points to the unanswerable questions about race, gender, and terrorism in Clifton's latest book, Mercy.

Amy Holman
Flow, Eddy, Flood, one chapter of a novel in progress, fictionalizes a poignantly hilarious wedding disaster.

Billy Collins

Billy Collins has published nine collections of poetry, including, from the University of Pittsburg Press, Questions About Angels (1999), The Art of Drowning (1995), and Picnic, Lightning (1998). In May 2000, Picador in the UK published his collection of poems, Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes. In September 2001, Random House published Sailing Alone Around the Room: New & Selected Poems. In the fall of 2002, Random House also published his latest collection of poems, Nine Horses , and, in spring 2003, published Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry, an anthology of poems selected and with an introduction by Billy Collins. The United States Poet Laureate 2001-2003, he was, in January 2004, named New York State Poet Laureate 2004-2006. He has just retired as Distinguished Professor of English at Lehman College of the City University of New York. He lives in Somers, New York.

Billy Collins - Interview


This interview is excerpted from the conversation led by Paula Gordon and Bill Russell of The Paula Gordon Show: Conversations with People at the Leading EdgeSM

Listen to the full program:   (requires Real Player)
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6

Atlanta / April 2, 2004

Paula Gordon: Greetings, all, this is Paula Gordon. Moments are the building blocks of time and we're mostly oblivious to them, according to Billy Collins. He says it's the task of lyrical poetry to bring us back to a sense of the momentary. "The poem for me begins in clarity and ends in mystery," says Dr. Collins, former poet laureate of the United States.

Billy Collins: The interesting part of writing for me is finding a point in a poem that allows me to slip into another dimension. Usually, that's moving from a literal plane to a completely hypothetical one. It's the hypothetical, I think, that makes us human.

PG: Dr. Collins noticed people saying they were no longer going to put off doing things after September 11, 2001.

BC: Poetry has been saying that for a few thousand years. Seize the day. Do it now. The sense behind that imperative is that we don't have an unlimited number of days. Television says the same thing all the time—'Everything's going to be OK.' Contemporary novels are saying, 'Things are not OK.' What poetry is saying is 'Life is beautiful but you're going to die.' So much of poetry asks us to look at life from the perspective that death enhances life.

PG: Billy Collins remembers being slow to find his own "voice."

BC: I was a little too well behaved in my earlier poetry, I was trying to be a 'good poet.' I think releasing a kind of juvenile delinquent into my poetry was very liberating for me. I felt I was free to mess around. The speaking voice in these poems is more of a character than the autobiographical equivalent of me, he's a new and improved version of me. If you're a novelist, you have to invent dozens, sometimes hundreds of characters. If you're a poet, you have to invent just one.

PG: Dr. Collins says he is always imagining his reader as he writes.

BC: These poems are meant to be fairly intimate communications between me and one other person. I perform half of the exchange and when the reader arrives, the exchange is completed.

PG: He also thinks poetry has a strong vocal appeal.

BC: Most of the devices used in poetry—meter and rhyme and assonance and the other kinds of tropes or effects—are really meant to give the ear pleasure in a way that prose does not. Poetry also appeals to the ear because poetry is an interruption of silence. A poem should be preceded by silence and followed by silence. A poem for me displaces silence the way your body displaces water.

PG: He believes that poetry provides the highest degree of imaginative freedom of any written art.

BC: Poets are not restricted as a novelist would be in terms of chronology and plausibility and inventing characters that then you have to deal with. In poetry, there is the form and the craft of it but within that, you have pretty much carte blanche. For me, the imaginative excitement is what attracts me to poetry.

© 1997-2005 The Paula Gordon Show

Billy Collins' first online publication appears in TCR's Issue 7.
More Billy Collins at TCR:

-Grace Cavalieri interviews Billy Collins

-Billy Collins reads "The Yellow Wagtail's Nest" by John Clare


Paula Gordon's days as a television host culminated with an Emmy nomination in 1977 for "Small World," a weekly half-hour show on Chicago’s WMAQTV, NBC’s owned and operated station, where she was also a station announcer.  She then spent almost two decades in the business world as she and husband Bill Russell created, built, then sold one of the Southeast’s premier film and video companies.  Producer and host of The Paula Gordon Show, Paula also leads The Clarion Group, a business consultancy. A Midwesterner, she lives with her husband live in Atlanta.  She is the host of Musical Wonders from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.

In addition to being co-host of The Paula Gordon Show, Bill Russell serves as the research vice president of Clarion Group with particular expertise in information systems and infrastructure support. Bill's degree in systems engineering from Stanford University ('68) was a springboard for a lifetime supporting the knowledge and communications needs of corporations, from designing systems solutions for Levi Strauss, to start-up companies and state-wide broadcast television programming. A world traveler, Bill serves as President of Public Intelligence, Inc. and of Investigations Group, Inc.  He was born and raised in Alabama. 





© 2005 The Cortland Review