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    Billy Collins, Take Two

    In this second part, Billy Collins spoke more about his experience as a poet, a professor and a consumer. When asked about the marketing induced by animations of his poems on Youtube, Collins said, “They came on their own, and I didn’t set out to put that out. But it’s a good idea to have poetry out in unexpected ways, like youtube, poetry in motion on the subways ? poetry on the radio is good, it’s hard to resist. When you’re going to a poetry reading you could have your deflector shields on. But with poetry that ambushes people ? it gets in before you can resist it.”

    He then spoke about the development of the Youtube videos, “Poetry has to keep up with the media. I know some people are working on something called iPoetry, which is poetry you can download and listen to on your iPod. As far as the animations, they were out together by J. Walter Thomson and he did for the Sundance channels, and the Sundance channel hired a bunch of animators.”

    He also talked about animation as a medium of poetry. “The poem called the dead, which I think is one of the best of the animations, got half a million hits. I thought the animation was a good mix. I’m not a mixed media kind of person, and I’ve never agreed to illustrations with poems. They say here’s a picture of a tree with a picture of a poem, but I’ve already presented the tree in the poem. I went to the studio at Walter and did the reading, so I cooperated!”

    When asked about what students immersed in science and engineering at a school, such as Stony Brook University, can gain from poetry. He responded, “language is the way we announce ourselves, poetry is sort of for me the highest form of announcing yourself, the branch where your ego settles in. Just because you want to be a pharmacist or any of those career paths does make you immune to poetry. Poetry is the history of emotions, of the human heart. One of the things you derive from it is that although the styles are changing, the content is the same, so to read poetry puts you in a community of the ancients. The more scientific your major, the more your need for poetry.”

    Collins then talked about his dual professions of being a professor and a poet at the same time. He explained, “If I go to a college and I’m teaching students or I’m being interviewed by school papers, it brings out the inner academic in me, I want the answers to make sense. I’ve never felt like the two faces of Eve, I’ve felt that poetry and teaching are similar. I mean you are left alone and the poetry is basically a rolodex in my head. Every semester I’m teaching Wordsworth again or even Chaucer. All these songs are like a jukebox of English poetry and are playing in my head every semester, and it keeps me in touch with my brother and sisters, my predecessors, my influences.”

    He summed it quoting one of his colleagues, “I was first a professor who happened to be a poet and now I’m a poet who happens to be a professor.”

    Lastly, Collins went into more detail about finishing a poem, “I conduct creative writing workshops and it’s a big question when you don’t want to say anymore and the reader doesn’t want to hear anymore and both are satisfied. My poems are always going somewhere, I don’t know where but it’s some imaginative trip – it’s either another time dimension or down some rabbit hole. The ending of the poem is very clear to me, it’s the destination that I didn’t know I was moving towards, but when I see it, I know it. Those that don’t give pleasure don’t give closure. And I’m not saying that a poem needs to say ‘in conclusion,’ but it needs to lands somewhere. I mean you can dead end the poem and not give the reader anymore. There is a kind of cat and mouse game. And it’s good to evade reader’s expectations.”

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