American poet Billy Collins believes poetry should be out rubbing shoulders with the rabble:
“When you get a poem on a billboard or on the radio or on a cereal box, it happens to you so suddenly that you don’t have time to deploy your anti-poetry deflector shields that were installed in high school.”
Collins’ popularity as a poet may well be unprecedented in our time. Having served two terms as US Poet Laureate (as he himself loves to point out), he speaks to us of suburban middle-class life in language ordinary people understand. His readings regularly sell out and he has received six-figure advances for recent books.
All of that aside, I just love his poems. I listened to a recording of him reading his poem “Forgetfulness” years ago, and I still think of it often. Everyone I’ve ever read it to has asked for a copy. I think we recognize ourselves in his words. I love hearing the audience respond to his reading of that poem.
In his 2012 Ted Talk, he gives us what he calls our “recommended dietary allowance of poetry.” The talk includes animations of several of his poems, a marriage of mediums he initially doubted, until he realized it would “get poetry on television.” The funniest poem in the Ted Talk, though, is the last one, with no animation, a deliciously tongue-in-cheek commentary on adolescence.
You’re looking a bit poetry deficient yourself. You’d better click play.