Billy Collins

Billy Collins

1941 -

Billy Collins served two terms as Poet Laureate of the United States, from 2001 to 2003. Collins' poetry has been set to music by American composers such as Allan Blank, Tom Cipullo and Libby Larsen. Collins has been described as the "most popular poet in America" because of his witty and humorous poetry, often written with a conversational tone.

Photo: Billy Collins, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs

The recording of "Desire," provided in the audio playlist to the right, is made possible through a collaboration with SongFest. The performers are Matthew Morris, baritone, and Sungha Lee, pianist, and the performance took place on June 19, 2010 at Pepperdine University.


Born in New York City, William James Collins completed his undergraduate education at the College of the Holy Cross (White Plains, NY) and his graduate education (M.A. and Ph.D.) at the University of California, Riverside.

Collins has taught at Lehman College, The City University of New York for more than 30 years. He is an extremely prolific poet, having published more than a dozen volumes of poetry. His readings frequently sell-out, which is rare in the poetry world.

In addition to being appointed Poet Laureate of the United States twice, he has also received the Guggenheim Fellowship and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. He served as a Literary Lion of the New York Public Library and served as Poet Laureate for the State of New York from 2004 to 2006.

Collins has been described as having a "remarkably American voice" in his poetry. Collins himself said that he tries to invite readers into a poem by first creating "a hospitable tone at the beginning of the poem."

--Christie Finn Sources: Poetry Foundation website and

Songs & Song Collections BY Collins (entered to date)
Composers who set Collins's TEXTS (entered to date)

Audio PLaylist