Billy Collins

Particularly when I thought of myself as a Wallace Stevens acolyte, I wrote very difficult poetry and I was really guilty of not knowing what I was talking about. I was going for a kind of clever verbal effect. I was trying to sound linguistically or verbally interesting. I had a sense, I guess, from just reading a lot of poetry of how a poem would start and how it would end but really I didn’t know what I was doing. It had very little connection to my life.

I just think that the world of workshops – I’ve written a poem that is a parody of workshop talk, I’ve written a poem that is a kind of parody of a garrulous poet at a poetry reading who spends an inordinate amount of time explaining the poem before reading it, I’ve written a number of satirical poems about other poets.

Now I would say at any given moment in American life, there are probably 45 poets in airplanes vectoring across the country heading towards…I don’t know if anyone’s reading it, but poets are still flying around the country going from lectern to lectern.That circuitry has become very well-established.

There’s this pet phrase about writing that is bandied around particularly in workshops about “finding your own voice as a poet”, which I suppose means that you come out from under the direct influence of other poets and have perhaps found a way to combine those influences so that it appears to be your own voice.

Every Day Is for the Thief is a vivid, episodic evocation of the truism that you can’t go home again; but that doesn’t mean you’re not free to try. A return to his native Nigeria plunges Cole’s charming narrator into a tempest of chaos, contradiction, and kinship in a place both endearingly familiar and unnervingly strange. The result is a tale that engages and disturbs.

There are just long gaps where I can’t find a point of insertion, I can’t find a good opening line, I can’t find a mood that I want to write into. But once I do, once a line falls out of the air, or I get a little inkling of a subject and I recognize that, it’s like the sense that a game has started.

Part of writing is discovering the rules of the game and then deciding whether to follow the rules or to break them. The great thing about the game of poetry is that it’s always your turn – I guess that goes back to my being an only child. So once it’s under way, there is a sense of flow.