From Billy Collins's MasterClass

A Poet's Journey

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

Topics include: Getting Published · The Road You Choose · The Club You Join


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

Topics include: Getting Published · The Road You Choose · The Club You Join

Billy Collins

Teaches Reading and Writing Poetry

Learn More


[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.

I will continue to re-read & re-listen to this class...just now scouring the used book stores for Billy's Books....Thanks for this Master Class

First chapter of Billy Collins' was insightful and helpful on a practical level, just what I am looking for.

Well, I've just started to write a tons of poems per day. I've tried verse libre))And I'm happy about it.

Reinforced that I stay true to myself in writing in my own unique style and voice. And to get with it, read more, and write more!


Townsend S.

I once heard the poet Tim Hunt (who's also a Robinson Jeffers scholar) read and give a presentation about his work. He shared a story about someone in academia telling him that he "couldn't be a poet because [he] didn't have an MFA." I was glad to hear this addressed in the lesson. I also liked the story about Miller Williams and living up to one's own standards. I really do wish this course could have been longer. Thank you, Billy Collins.

R. Greg S.

I loved the description of "school poetry." Male poets with beards and three names. I've loved this course, one of the very few times I've been inspired to take notes in any class. Thank you, Billy Collins, and thank you, Masterclass.

Ana T.

Thank you Billy! Enjoyed the masterclass. Took a lot from it. I would love to see a masterclass with Marie Howe!

Timothy G.

Thank you so much. I enjoyed this class immensely. There is no one I had rather have teach this class.

Nancy T.

I appreciate the practical guidance given through this master class, and I also value the tone of the teaching. We, the great mass of aspiring poets, are taken seriously. Thank you, Billy Collins!

John S.

I thought Collins' adolescent discovery regarding the contrast of "school" vs. "contemporary" was delightful, as down to earth as he is. I also enjoyed the fact that he shared his early experiences regarding his efforts to become a published poet very encouraging to someone like me, who neither possesses an MFA, nor many years left on the planet, given my senior citizen status. About 2 months ago I submitted my first book of poetry to three different contests. I am awaiting the results keeping my fingers crossed.

Warren D.

The program was engrossing and so very informative. It reinforced somethings and brought insights not understood or considered before. The interaction of poets, both young and older, helped to position the information and revealed how to weave ideas and images together. I have admired Billy Collins over the years and I am so glad to have gotten such personal information and reflection through this class. It was superb.


I really enjoyed this class. I’ve done 4 of the exercises in the workbook and intend to complete them all. That means I’m writing more 😀 Billy Collins is an excellent teacher and gifted poet. I hope to take a class with him in the future. Thank you MasterClass!

Pateicia R.

This lesson was valuable in learning the phases Collins experienced and I found he needed to live up to his higher standard or his best, This awareness caused me to rewrite, shorten and find better metaphors. Also to vizualze my reader helped direct me to what he got from my words which then I'd select more carefully. I now will let myself be inspired by other poets borrowing what I found might give my poems the same intimate, human, humorous, knowing punch I find in his. I wished there were more and longer sessions.

Stephanie B.

I liked it but you never let me finish my comments. I have more to say about the class as a whole!