From Billy Collins's MasterClass

Introduction: The Pleasure Poetry Gives Us

Meet your new instructor: Billy Collins, one of the most popular and prolific poets of our time. In your first lesson, Billy introduces the many pleasures of poetry and illuminates how poetry connects you to the history of the human heart.

Topics include: Billy Collins Teaches Reading and Writing Poetry


Meet your new instructor: Billy Collins, one of the most popular and prolific poets of our time. In your first lesson, Billy introduces the many pleasures of poetry and illuminates how poetry connects you to the history of the human heart.

Topics include: Billy Collins Teaches Reading and Writing Poetry

Billy Collins

Teaches Reading and Writing Poetry

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[MUSIC PLAYING] BILLY COLLINS: Of all the things poetry is, I think the most important thing it is, it provides us with a history of the human heart. We have lots of histories, of course. And we have history departments in universities. And we have histories about truces and about boundary disputes, and inventions, and wars. But poetry is really the only history we have of the human heart. And if you trace it back to the oldest poems we can find, at least in Western culture, starting with Catullus and moving up to today, they're all speaking the same language. All these poets are really wrestling with the same things. And they're wrestling with emotions of fear of death or embracing death, gratitude for what God has given them, loneliness, adventure, failure to assert oneself. They're all humans. Dante, Milton, Wordsworth, you see the same stuff in there. The language sounds very different. But underneath it all, we're all after the same thing. I'm Billy Collins. And this is my MasterClass. [MUSIC PLAYING] I wrote a piece some years ago called "Poetry, Pleasure, and the Hedonist Reader" in which I laid out pleasures that poetry gives us. I could mention some of them. There was the pleasure-- I call it the pleasure of the dance, which was the pleasure of the rhythms of the poem and how they modulate and affect your reading of it. The pleasure of sound, some would define poetry as words that mean more and sound better. The pleasure of travel, the pleasure of moving from one place in the poem to a different place, moving from a familiar place to an unfamiliar place, moving from Kansas to Oz. All right? Good metaphor for poems. You start in a very familiar place in Kansas and you end up in some wildly conceptual, unhinged places. And then there was also the pleasure of metaphoric connection, of poets coming up with wild comparisons and the enjoyment of seeing a new synapse kind of opened in your mind between two very unlikely things. The other pleasure was the pleasure of, I call it, the pleasure of companionship that comes from memorization. To memorize a poem is to internalize it. And you take it with you wherever you go. If you hold-- if you hold onto it, memorize it, it becomes a companion. Poetry is about time and especially what I would call the romance of time. And that's just another way of saying carpe diem. The romance of time means we're running out of it. All right? So and that's-- and so much poetry is a call to action-- all right-- and saying, live more. You know, get with it. Get your head out of the screen now, that kind of thing. Plunge in.

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 liked the lessons which are about finding the nuances and quirks in the stories inside the poem, and the resonances in modern life.

This has been my favorite Master Class so far, because it focuses most directly on my personal creative aspirations. He is a great teacher.

This class has heartened me. Billy has a wonderful, warm manner that encourages you and practical suggestions well explained. I didn't learn anything new but he reminded me of methods I hadn't used on a while and gave me hope.

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


Faith M.

History of the Human Heart Romance of Time Underneath We're all after the same things

James R.

I especially love the way Billy Collins renders his ideas as accessible and unassuming. I've always seen poetry as a clearer reduction of everyday life and thought, and his style with words rings true.

John S.

I have been writing poetry for a few years now and have performed it in public several times, reading my work to a variety of audiences. I have yet to memorize one of my poems, but am now strongly considering it. I think I'd have a greater impact on my audience if I did. Collins suggests that such memorization helps the poet develop a companionship with his or her work, a form of pleasure. I concur.

Deborah T.

Deborah Thomas, Cape Meares, Oregon I am so excited to take this class. I have studied poetry, written poetry, read poetry, and the kind of writing Collins brings to the conversation of poetry is the answer I have always never expected to find, but searched for nonetheless. Thanks for doing this.

Carolyn M.

This is my third listening. After taking the entire course, it's lovely to go back to where it all began and hear these themes again.

Mark D.

I'm not really a poetry scholar but I like words and writing. This obviously is an intro clip, but so far I like the way he speaks and approaches the topic. Hi to all.


I liked it... I feel about poetry the way Billy Collins was outlining here...the travel from one fizical place to an imaginary realm of sorts... that metaphore I liked very much...I feel being a poet is about being able to listen and be true to your own uncensured feelings, emotions, and have the courage to go with them and to write about them

Kasy L.

I loved this introduction. "Poetry provides us a history of the human heart." I love that. It's very true. I also enjoyed learning about the different pleasures of poetry. I look forward to this class.

Townsend S.

I liked this introduction. It reminded me--and this might be completely subjective--that poetry can be personal but it also has to find a way of becoming universal as well. Also: it's not just what you're saying, but how you're saying it. This introduction also reminds I have so much work to do and so much more to learn. The montage of poets' portraits was a nice touch.

Linda R.

I liked being reminded of elements that poets should be thinking about as they write--rhythm, sound, movement, and metaphor.