Billy Collins: On the Road with the Poet Laureate
This 59-minute documentary captures the qualities that make Collins such a refreshing literary figure. With a film crew trailing him to poetry readings, to college classrooms, to his office and his home, and even into his car, he manages to remain amazingly witty, gracious, and open in discussing his life, his work, and the nature of poetry itself. Interviews with distinguished poets and critics Edward Hirsch and Richard Howard, with Librarian of Congress Dr. James Billington, and with Random House editor Daniel Menaker lend new perspectives on Collins's achievement.
This is also the first documentary to explore the cultural role of the U.S. Poet Laureate, a position that Collins held between 2001-03. He is joined by former poets laureate Robert Hass, Rita Dove, and Robert Pinsky at the 2002 Dodge Poetry Festival for an amusing series of reflections on the history of this unique position, which is both a literary honor and a quasi-government position, as persuasive or as irrelevant as the writer chooses to make it.
A writer of warmth and surreal humor whose voice is nonetheless inflected with the dark tones of what Frost called "moral panic," Collins can be seen and heard here reading some of his most famous poems, including "Introduction to Poetry," "Forgetfulness," "Lanyard," and "Nightclub." Students of poetry, and Collins's many fans, will find much here that entertains and illuminates.
"A loosely structured but immensely entertaining profile, filmmaker Richard B. Woodward's road documentary interweaves excerpts from cross-country poetry readings, interview footage of Collins at home (buttressed with archival photographs), comments from colleagues including poet/critic Edward Hirsch and the Library of Congress' James H. Billington, and clips of Collins on the dais with other notable poets such as Rita Dove and Robert Haas. Coming from a native tradition begun with Walt Whitman, and continuing through William Carlos Williams and Robert Frost, Collins' poetry is deceptively simple (and laugh out loud funny), and this portrait serves up a generous helping of some of his best. Highly recommended." - Video Librarian, November/December 2003
Winner, Best Documentary - 2004 Westchester Film Festival
PRESENTED BY: The Checkerboard Film Foundation
P R O D U C E R: Edgar B. Howard
D I R E C T O R: Richard B. Woodward
E D I T O R: Joelle Schon
C A M E R A: David W. Leitner & Tom Piper
M U S I C: Hayes Greenfield
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