You may think writing poetry is all about gazing at the stars in the sky and the bluebells in the fields, then being struck by divine inspiration. But if you ask Billy Collins, he’ll tell you the process is more like a Wallace and Gromit cartoon.
“There’s a great one where the dog is on top of a locomotive,” says the two-term U.S. poet laureate. “He’s got a box full of track, and he’s frenetically laying down track in front of the train. That’s a good metaphor for writing a poem.”
Collins, 72, has been laying track quite proficiently. His latest collection, “Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems” (Random, $26), gathers work written since 2002, with selections from “Nine Horses, The Trouble With Poetry, Ballistics and Horoscopes for the Dead.”
A distinguished professor of English at Lehman College of the City University of New York and a senior distinguished fellow at the Winter Park Institute of Rollins College, Collins was U.S. poet laureate from 2001 to 2003 and poet laureate of New York State from 2004 to 2006. He also filled in for Garrison Keillor this summer as host of “The Writer’s Almanac.”