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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Poet Laureate Addresses Packed Staller Crowd

    As part of the Undergraduate Commons Day, poet laureate Billy Collins gave a formal lecture at the Staller Center Main Stage to provide interested readers with some insight into one of his earlier works, an anthology of poems entitled ‘Sailing Alone Around the Room.’

    When discussing ‘Sailing Alone Around the Room,’ the required reading for this year’s freshmen, the class of 2011, Collins noted his penchant for making poetry a mainstay in daily life, not simply a tool meant for poking and prodding in the grade school classroom. Collins mentioned the horrible experiences he’s had during his childhood with regard to poetry and why he is a proponent of simple and accessible poetic form.

    Collins said, ‘We’re all artists as children’hellip;. And somehow, natural artistic love is beaten out of us in school.’ To make poetry more enjoyable for grade school students, Collins mentioned that he has created a program, ‘Poetry 180,’ meant to instill poetry in the daily routines of all grade school students for the 180 day school year.

    While speaking about ‘Sailing Alone Around the Room,’ Collins provided listeners with different types of instructions about poetry in general. He commented about what makes poetry unique from prose as something that would be written in a diary.

    ‘Humans are pattern loving creatures. We look for patterns everywhere,’ Collins said.

    Collins noted that form keeps poems together, making poems different from other literary forms. For much of the lecture, Collins used the 17 syllable haiku poems as a prime example of form in poetry. Haiku poems usually consist of three lines with the pattern of five, seven, and five syllables in the first, second and third lines respectively.

    Students accustomed to a highly structured extraction of meaning from poetry commented in largely positive manner about Collins’ work.

    Dilon Sturges and Ivan Pang, both freshmen, commented about the ‘simple and pleasant’ nature of Collins’ poems.

    Michael Avelin, also a freshman, called Collins’ work ‘interesting’ and ‘enjoyable.’

    He said, ‘I wouldn’t call it my favorite work, but I can definitely think of a couple poems that stand out.’

    Before the lecture, Collins had a busy morning. He attended a ‘Breakfast and Meeting Session’ with students from the Honors College, WISE, and University Scholars. Later on, still before the event at the Staller Center, Collins attended the ‘Creative Expression Awards Luncheon’ to provide awards to 30 students from the various undergraduate academic colleges for a success in an essay writing contest. Among other accomplishments, Collins is best known for becoming the United States poet laureate from 2001-2003. From 2004-2006, Collins was the New York State Poet Laureate.

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