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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University April 30, 2007 | Vol. 36 No. 32
Billy Collins, Former U.S. Poet Laureate, to Give Reading

Billy Collins
Photo by Jersey Wals

By Matt Bowden
Center for Talented Youth

The Joshua Ringel Memorial Reading celebrates its 10th anniversary at 5 p.m. on Sunday, May 13, when former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins takes the Shriver Hall stage on the Homewood campus.

The event is sponsored by the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins in partnership with the Gilman School, Teachers & Writers Collaborative and WYPR.

Billy Collins is an American phenomenon. No poet since Robert Frost has managed to combine high critical acclaim with such broad popular appeal. The 2001-2003 U.S. poet laureate, Collins is a frequent voice on National Public Radio, and his work appears regularly in a variety of periodicals, including The New Yorker and The Paris Review. He is a Guggenheim fellow and a New York Public Library "Literary Lion." In October 2004, Collins was selected as the inaugural recipient of the Poetry Foundation's Mark Twain Award for humorous poetry. He is currently a professor of English at Lehman College of the City University of New York.

"Luring his readers into the poem with humor, Mr. Collins leads them unwittingly into deeper, more serious places, a kind of journey from the familiar to quirky to unexpected territory, sometimes tender, often profound," a reviewer wrote in The New York Times. Collins has published eight collections of poetry, including Nine Horses and Sailing Alone Around the Room.

"Poetry can and should be an important part of our daily lives," Collins says. To make the point, he, with the Library of Congress, has spearheaded the Poetry 180 program, which seeks to have a poem read each day to the students of high schools across the country. "Hearing a poem every day, especially well-written, contemporary poems that students do not have to analyze, might convince students that poetry can be an understandable, painless and even eye-opening part of their everyday experience," he says.

The Joshua Ringel Memorial Fund was established in 1998 by the Ringel family in memory of this former CTY student whose life was cut short in a motorcycle accident just before his 28th birthday. The Memorial Fund supports an annual lecture/reading dedicated to education, poetry and the imagination. Past visiting poets include Kenneth Koch, Robert Pinsky, Grace Paley, John Ashbery, Sharon Olds and Galway Kinnell.

A 4:30 p.m. reception precedes the event, with a book signing immediately after. Books will be available for purchase at the door. The reading is free but seats are limited; to attend, e-mail with your name and number of seats requested, or call 410-735-4103.


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