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Arts & Entertainment

A Poet's Journey

Billy Collins

Lesson time 11:37 min

Billy invites you to join the club of poets who have been writing since the beginning of time.

Billy Collins
Teaches Reading and Writing Poetry
In his first-ever online class, former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins teaches you how to find joy, humor, and humanity in reading and writing poetry.
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[MUSIC PLAYING] - Poetry kind of came to me very slowly. I wanted to be-- I wanted to be a poet ever since I was in high school. I just thought it would be great to be a poet. I don't know why. But-- and I started fooling around with words. My father, who was not a poetic type at all, his bookcase was either books on aviation, insurance, or golf instruction, that was about it. But for some reason or other Poetry Magazine came to his office in New York. And he knew I was interested in po-- interested in poetry when I was in high school. And he used to bring Poetry Magazine home to me. And I could read contemporary poetry. Now, in school I was reading school poetry. I was reading poems only by males. They had to be dead. They had beards. And they had three names. William Wadsworth Longfellow and all those guys, William Cullen Bryant. And they sounded like they were dead and had beards. And I thought, I'm-- I'm not dead and I can't grow a beard yet and I have just two names. So I'll never be a poet. But when my father brought home Poetry Magazine, I suddenly heard contemporary poetry. I heard people that felt like they were talking to me. There were many of them using the language of everyday life and with some jazz added to it. And I would go through these poems. And I really was too young to understand them. I'd be like 15 or 16. But I would see a couple of words together or a line that was just-- I don't know. It seemed cool, like, putting these words together that didn't quite belong together. And I would make a little mark, a little flag in the margin. So I was appreciating the poetic or the verbal sparks that a poem can give off, without really comprehending the poem-- the poems themselves. And so I began by fooling around with-- and I'm kind of-- without meaning to, I'm kind of quoting the poet Patrick Kavanaugh, the Irish poet, who said when it was asked how you became a poet, he said I-- I began by fooling around-- I started fooling around with words. And at some point, it became my life. As a young man, I wanted to be a poet, but I was-- it was-- it was aspirational wanting. I never thought I'd be one, really. I thought-- I didn't know what really, but I thought I'd probably-- maybe I'd write poems on the side. Maybe I'd just keep this little secret. Maybe I'd get published in the magazine. I thought maybe I'd have a book of poetry and it would sell 1,000 copies maybe and I could die a happy-- happy man, happy published poet. That's a big step for a poet. We have the phrase, yes he's a or she's a published poet. No one ever says she's a published novelist. If you write-- wrote novels and you never got published, well, you're kind of writing them for your own sake. Or-- but there are lots of unpublished poets and to cross that line and to get a book of poems-- for-- my first two books where little chap books by a fly by night presses that have disappeared. My first book in fact is called "Poker Face." And...

Let imagination lead the way

Known for his wit and wisdom, former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins is one of America’s most beloved contemporary poets. In his MasterClass, Billy teaches you to appreciate the emotional pull of poetry. Learn his approach to exploring subjects, incorporating humor, and finding your voice. Discover the profound in the everyday, and let poetry lead you to the unexpected.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

An excellent glimpse at what poetry is about. A great reminder to look at things from different perspectives, fully recognizing this is one poet's POV

Great class. I'm going to look for books of poetry right now. And I have his recent collection at home.

Billy Collin's Masterclass was excellent. In equal parts, it was entertaining and educational; I enjoyed listening to excellent poetry (and their interpretations), and I picked up a few valuable tips to consider when approaching the writing of poetry. I could listen to 10 more hours of Billy Collins reading and interpreting poems :) I highly recommend this Masterclass to poets and aspiring poets.

These narratives are as if (ex.) Billy Collins or Neil de Grasse Tyson are talking deep into the night over an after dinner drink just to me. They are the best of what each wish to share with the world at a time when we need to see the best of what humans have to offer. Thank you.


Lynne C.

I've enjoyed Billy's friendly approach and wit. The lessons were exactly what I needed and the examples were enormously helpful. I realize I had a misunderstanding about poetry and no clue as to form. I now find writing poetry pleasurable and not the difficult task I remember from school, although that was a while ago.


Billy's charm is such that you feel he's sitting in your living room, twirling his glasses or pen while giving you every ounce of his attention while speaking passionately and eloquently about what he loves. Don't think I won't order more of his books.

Nathaly L.

It won't be a problem rewatching this whole series every now and then and enjoying it as if I hadn't seen it before. Thank you so much !!

Jacinta L.

Thank you for such a wonderful Masterclass, Mr.Billy Collins. I've learnt so much not only about poetry and writing. This class has deepened and enriched me as a person. Thank you to all the poets (past and present) whose poems have been read. Thank you to everyone who made this Masterclass possible.

Holly W.

This was a wonderful Masterclass. Thank you, Billy Collins, and thank you Marie Howe. I can't tell you how much I've learned. I also really enjoyed it, and so appreciate it. I'll be listening again...

James C.

I loved this masterclass. It was a joy to listen to and I loved what master class added with music and graphic illustrations. I also loved the dialogue between Billy and Marie Howe, one of my favorite parts indeed hearing them converse. The workbook helps put it all together and take action and I am still working through that. Big win and great class thank you Billy and Masterclass Team.

Dubravka R.

Thank you Billy Collins, it was a true pleasure listening your poetry lessons. The easiness, the mediation like flow of your talks, your own ways are very inspirational. Poetry was my youthful dream never realized. The life happened and changed my priorities; now in my sudden - pension - free - time, I am feeling energized to start where I stopped long time ago. Thank you!

Nasrin T.

I really enjoyed this lesson! I've never had any kind of formal learning of poetry and this was a good shortened semester lecture on poetry and literature. The lesson validated a lot of my process and things I already do but it also gave me a lot of insight and ways to improve such as developing a persona, be more aware of my form, that it it's okay not to rhyme and that poems can turn for the better. Overall, while I knew a lot I also learned a lot. He was enjoyable to listen to and very insightful. I would have loved to have been taught by him.

A fellow student

I loved the Billy Collins class! I went through it in one happy Corona day. I will do it over again and again with the notes I took and the workbook. I found out that he is an excellent generous teacher and funny in a British manner. It will affect my writing even though I am writing mostly in Hebrew. A gift to Billy Collons: Hebrew is a language of verbs; this means that each word is condensed and has many memories, some biblical. The word poet -in Hebrew is pronounced - MESHORER. When you play with the letters and combine them in different ways, you find these words hiding within this one word [5 letters in Hebrew] משורר MESHORER: Sing, song, a minister, over there, moved, poor, high, to draw, to save, to keep.

A fellow student

I love this class very much that I finished all twenty classes in one day. I always admired Billy Collins poetry writing style and had been to his reading in the past. However, this master class experience really touched many interior aspect of writing for me. As a MFA candidate and published poet myself, I enjoyed every bit insight of Billy Collins and think his style is not only humorous but serious. Long live the poetry writing and reading!