Billy Collins

Billy Collins is a New York-based poet.

Selected Works:

The Trouble with Poetry, The Art of Drowning, The Apple That Astonished Paris


2001-2003 U.S. Poet Laureate; 2004-2006 New York State Poet

Visit Author Website

Which one or two American books or plays would you yourself recommend to the foreign leaders?

Robert Stone’s novel A Flag for Sunrise and, unavoidably, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.

Who in your childhood–for example, parent or teacher—encouraged you to read books, and which one or two books do you remember most fondly?

My mother gave me one of the greatest gifts an adult can give a child: she read to me nearly every day. Mostly children’s books, of course, then repeatedly at my insistence the animal classics, Black Beauty by Anna Sewell (50 million copies sold, it might be added) and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’s The Yearling. My mother also had memorized hundreds of lines of poetry, which often found their way into her conversation. Reading and quoting were familiar parts of my growing up.

Which books by writers of the other G8 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom) have been most important to you as a writer?

The short stories of Alberto Moravia, the humorous writings of Stephen Leacock, Sartre, Philip Larkin, Thomas Bernhard—these are a few writers who belong in a list of probably a hundred who influenced me in some way.

What is the Power of the Word Exhibit?

Power of the Word: Leaders, Readers and Writers is the first online exhibition of The American Writers Museum. As world leaders gather in the U.S. this spring, The American Writers Museum Foundation is inviting American writers and readers to explore the power of the word and join in a discussion of how American books can help readers in other parts of the world better understand our culture.

Leaders Gallery

An exploration into what some of the world’s most powerful leaders like to read, and how reading has influenced them.

Writers Gallery

American writers comment on their early experiences with reading and name the books they think world leaders should read in order to better understand American culture.

Readers Gallery

An interactive, open forum where readers are invited to join the discussion by answering the question: Which American works of literature do you think leaders from other nations should read in order to gain a better understanding of America?

We would like to thank our exhibit sponsors for their generous support:


What is The American Writers Museum?

The mission of The American Writers Museum Foundation is to establish the first national museum in the United States dedicated to engaging the public in celebrating American writers and exploring their influence on our history, our identity, our culture and our daily lives. Learn more at