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Wikipedia entry for Billy Collins
Billy Collins (born William James Collins March 22, 1941) is an American poet, appointed as Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003. He is a Distinguished Professor at Lehman College of the City University of New York and is the Senior Distinguished Fellow of the Winter Park Institute, Florida. Collins was recognized as a Literary Lion of the New York Public Library (1992) and selected as the New York State Poet for 2004-2006.
Early yearsCollins was born in New York City to William and Katherine Collins. Katherine Collins was a nurse who stopped working to raise the couple's only child. Mrs. Collins had the ability to recite verses on almost any subject, which she often did, and cultivated in her young son the love of words, both written and spoken. Billy Collins attended Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains and received a B.A. (English) from the College of the Holy Cross in 1963; he received his M.A. and Ph.D in English from the University of California, Riverside. His professors at Riverside included Victorian scholar and poet Robert Peters. In 1975 Collins founded The Mid Atlantic Review with his good friend and co-editor, Michael Shannon.
CareerLehman College in the Bronx, where he joined the faculty in 1968 and has taught for over thirty years. Additionally, he is a founding Advisory Board member of the CUNY Institute for Irish-American Studies at Lehman College. He also has taught and served as a visiting writer at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York as well as teaching workshops across the U.S. and in Ireland. Collins is a member of the faculty of SUNY Stonybrook Southampton College, where he teaches poetry workshops. Collins was named U.S. Poet Laureate in 2001 and held the title until 2003. Collins served as Poet Laureate for the State of New York from 2004 until 2006. Collins has been named Senior Distinguished Fellow at the Winter Park Institute in Winter Park, Florida, an affiliate of Rollins College. He is on the editorial board at The Alaska Quarterly Review, not actively involved since 2000. He is on the advisory board at the Southern Review, and is similarly named in other journals.
As U.S. Poet Laureate, Collins read his poem The Names at a special joint session of the United States Congress on September 6, 2002, held to remember the victims of the 9/11 attacks. Though, unlike their British counterparts, U.S. poets laureate are not asked or expected to write occasional poetry, Collins was asked by the Librarian of Congress to write a poem especially for that event. Collins initially refused to read "The Names" in public, though he has read it two times in public since 2002. He vows not to include it in any of his books, refusing to capitalize in any way on the 9/11 attacks. However, "The Names" was included in the The Poets Laureate Anthology
Billy Collins has been called "The most popular poet in America" by the New York Times. When he moved from the University of Pittsburgh Press to Random House, the advance he received shocked the poetry world — a six-figure sum for a three-book deal, virtually unheard of in poetry. The deal secured for Collins through his literary agent, Chris Calhoun of Sterling Lord Literistic, with the editor Daniel Menaker, remained the talk of the poetry world, and indeed the literary world, for quite some time.
Over the years, the U.S. magazine Poetry has awarded Collins several prizes in recognition of poems they publish. During the 1990s, Collins won five such prizes. The magazine also selected him as "Poet of the Year" in 1994. In 2005 Collins was the first annual recipient of its Mark Twain Prize for Humor in Poetry. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts and in 1993, from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation.
One of his most critically acclaimed works, "Fishing on the Susquehanna in July"  has been added to the preserved works of the United States Native American literary registry as being deemed a culturally significant poem.