Poet Billy Collins selected for Donald Hall-Jane Kenyon Prize

Last modified: 4/30/2013 12:07:18 AM
Billy Collins has been selected as the fourth winner of the Donald Hall-Jane Kenyon Prize in American Poetry. He will receive the annual award, which carries a $3,000 prize, and read his poems in Concord on Oct. 3.

Collins, a 72-year-old former U.S. poet laureate, has published 13 books of poems, including Horoscopes for the Dead (2011). He is known for the accessibility and humor of his poetry. A native of New York City, he is a distinguished professor at Lehman College of the City University of New York and teaches in the master of fine arts program at Stony Brook Southampton.

Although U.S. poets laureate are not required to write occasional poems, Collins agreed to do so after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York. Around the first anniversary of the attacks, he read “Names” at a joint session of Congress.

Wesley McNair, Maine’s poet laureate and a longtime friend of Hall’s, selected Collins for the prize.

“He’s intelligent, wonderfully witty and urbane, just as the critics say,” McNair said. “But the Billy Collins who engages me most is the naif – the poet of the curious imagination, who shows us that the world is a source of delight and mystery, and the only reason we haven’t seen this is that we’ve been standing in the light.”

The Hall-Kenyon prize honors the married poets who wrote together for nearly 20 years at Hall’s farm in Wilmot. Kenyon died in 1995. Hall lives and writes in the farmhouse and is expected to attend this year’s presentation.

“Billy Collins writes moving and beautiful poems, which are often funny as hell,” Hall said. “He is the best-selling poet of his generation, possibly of many generations.”

Previous winners of the Hall-Kenyon award were Ted Kooser (2010), Kay Ryan (2011) and Jane Hirshfield (2012).

The prize is co-sponsored by the Concord Monitor and the New Hampshire Writers’ Project through a fund originally established in Kenyon’s memory. Donations may be made to the Donald Hall-Jane Kenyon prize fund, c/o New Hampshire Writers’ Project, 2500 N. River Road, Manchester 03196.

Collins’s reading is scheduled at the Concord City Auditorium on Oct. 3. Time and ticket information will be announced soon.

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