(The following is a guest post by Guy Lamolinara, communications officer in the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress.)
Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins (2001-2003), creator of the Library’s Poetry 180 website, has just published his first illustrated children’s book with artist Karen Romagna. The book features Collins’ poem “Voyage,” which the poet wrote in 2003 and dedicated to John Y. Cole, director of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.
That year, Cole celebrated his 25th anniversary as the founding director of the center, and he has recently marked his 50th year of federal service (all but two at the Library).
The poem, presented to Cole in a letterpress edition from the coordinators of the 50 Center for the Book state affiliates, “was a surprise to me,” he said. “The original letterpress edition of 100 copies was printed at the University of Alabama by Steve Miller on handmade paper by Frank Brannon.”
Collins and Romagna discussed “Voyage,” a poem about the pleasures of reading, in the Children’s pavilion at this year’s National Book Festival. (A webcast of the presentation is forthcoming.)
In their presentation, Collins and Romagna discussed their contributions to the 32-page book, released Sept. 1 by Bunker Hill Publishing of Piermont, N.H. (The book is available from the Library’s Sales Shop.)
“The poem’s text and illustrations tell the story of how a young boy searching the beach for treasure comes across a sailboat and pushes out to sea. Magically the boat becomes a book that the boy begins to read, and he finds himself living out its adventure, pirate ship and all, in the fantastic world of words,” said Cole.
“Voyage” is Romagna’s debut as a picture book illustrator. A self-taught artist, she lives and paints in historic Clinton, N.J.
Collins has been called “the most popular poet in America.” While he was Poet Laureate, Collins created the Library’s widely used Poetry 180 website, which offers a poem a day throughout the school year. Collins made another presentation at the 2014 National Book Festival. He also discussed “Aimless Love,” his new collection of poems, in the Poetry & Prose Pavilion.
The Library’s Center for the Book, established by Congress in 1977 to “stimulate public interest in books and reading,” is a national force for reading and literacy promotion. A public-private partnership, it sponsors educational programs that reach readers of all ages through its affiliated state centers, collaborations with nonprofit reading-promotion partners and through the Young Readers Center and the Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress. For more information, visit read.gov.