Billy Collins served as U.S. poet laureate from 2001 to 2003 | provided

Energetic, humorous national poet Billy Collins will speak Thursday in North Charleston at the Bonds-Wilson campus that’s home to Academic Magnet High School and the Charleston County School of the Arts.

A free public poetry reading will be 6:30 p.m. Sept. 15 in the Rose Maree Myers Theater at the Charleston County School of the Arts.  The reading is sponsored by Applause, the official student newspaper of the School of the Arts. Admission is free, but tickets are required. Seating is limited.

Collins, who served as U.S. poet laureate from 2001 to 2003, is down-to-earth and relatable for people who don’t often read poetry, said Mount Pleasant resident and longtime friend Marjory Wentworth, a former S.C. poet laureate.

“When you read one of his poems, you feel like you’re in the kitchen with him and he’s feeding his dog,” she said. “He has this capacity to celebrate the ordinary.”

Wentworth said audiences find his poetry readings to be very funny.

“He’s the kind of poet where you can go to his readings and not know anything about him, but be very entertained. But you’re also going to learn something about your humanity.”

Dr. Shannon Cook, the principal at School of the Arts, said the school community is honored to host Collins, who was invited by SOA English teacher John Cusatis.

“Our students have studied his work, interviewed him to gain a deeper understanding of his approach to poetry, and we have all fallen in love with the rich language and imagery that characterize his writing,” she told the City Paper. 

According to a press release, Collins began garnering international attention in the late 1990s, largely due to appearances on various National Public Radio programs. His popularity soared during the next two decades, leading to comparisons with Robert Frost, the last poet to receive the blend of popular and critical acclaim that Collins has enjoyed. The New York Times has called him “the most popular poet in America.” Collins is famous for the affable, conversational tone of his poems, and the ease with which he allows readers to see the extraordinary in everyday experience. 

Collins was poet laureate during the 9/11 attacks and composed the poem “The Names” for the occasion of the first anniversary. He has read his work at the White House on two occasions and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. 

His latest book Whale Day was a New York Times bestseller and his next book, Musical Tables, will be published in November by Random House. 

Blue Bicycle Books will be on hand for a book signing after the reading. Copies of several of Collins’ books will be available for purchase as will Conversations with Billy Collins, a new collection of interviews conducted with the poet and edited by Cusatis. 

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