This month, high schools across the country celebrated the academic year’s halfway point. At the Poetry and Literature Center, we also have cause to celebrate this milestone: Former Poet Laureate Billy Collins has added 15 new poems to Poetry 180 for the second half of the school year.
To help propel us into the spring and summer, Billy Collins has this to say:
I started the Poetry 180 program after I was appointed U.S. Poet Laureate back in 2001, and I am thrilled that the people at the Library of Congress have kept the program going strong over all these years. One way we keep the program active is by replacing some poems every now and then with new poems, so the big list always stays fresh.
I’m excited about this new set of poems we just added. They include a bittersweet poem by Mark Halliday about a teacher leaving his office for the last time; a funny poem by Thomas Lux about a Christmas family photograph; a poem by Mary Oliver that is inspirational in its defiance of death; and “Aunties,” a Kevin Young poem about aunts who refuse to let go of their purses. In choosing new poems, I look for ones that reflect the rich diversity of today’s poetry scene, but one thing they all have in common is that each one arises out of common everyday experience. That’s the soil where poems like to grow.
If the element of surprise is not your style, here are the new poems we’ve added to the mix:
- “Slumnight” by Colette Inez
- “The Halls” by Mark Halliday
- “Second Estrangement” by Aracelis Girmay
- “Exotic Treats” by Laura McKee
- “When Death Comes” by Mary Oliver
- “Decades” by Gerald Stern
- “The Courtesy of the Blind” by Wislawa Szymborska
- “Ode to Dirt” by Sharon Olds
- “Tinnitus” by Robert Wrigley
- “the secretary chant” by Marge Piercy
- “Family Photo Around Xmas Tree” by Thomas Lux
- “Proof of Life” by Tony Hoagland
- “Dress Rehearsal” by Brandon Kreitler
- “Aunties” by Kevin Young
- “Gone” by Eamon Grennan
Spring and summer may seem worlds away, but you’ll get there. Just let poetry be your guide.