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Lehman Professor Billy Collins to Receive Nashville Public Library Literary Award

November 11, 2010

Professor Billy Collins

Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins, a Distinguished Professor of English at Lehman College, will receive the 2010 Nashville Public Library Literary Award this Saturday (Nov. 13) at the city's annual Library Gala. He is the seventh recipient of the award and follows previous winners John Irving, David Halberstam, David McCullough, John Updike, Ann Patchett and Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Professor Collins also will give a free public lecture in Nashville on Saturday morning and announce the winners of the "Billy Collins Live!" Teen Poetry Contest, who were selected by the poet. More than 200 Nashville teenagers submitted entries for the chance to win a free iPad in the competition sponsored by the Nashville Public Library Foundation and Nissan. As U.S. Poet Laureate, Professor Collins initiated the "Poetry 180" project, which encourages high school students to read a poem each day of the school year.

"Billy Collins is one of the most accomplished poets in U.S. history, and we're thrilled to celebrate his work and to welcome him to Nashville for the public event at Hume-Fogg High School," said Tari Hughes, executive director of the Nashville Public Library Foundation. "This is an amazing opportunity for our city and will inspire people to read his books and to engage in discussions about the many themes he raises in his poems."

For the two months leading up to the public lecture, the Library posted a Collins poem on its website. Nashvillians also were encouraged to post videos of themselves reciting one of his poems on YouTube. The recitation initiative was a first for the Public Library and for Nashville.

Mayor Karl Dean, who will introduce Professor Collins at the lecture, said that reading is an activity that can bring a community closer together, regardless of age, race or other differences.

Professor Collins, who has been a member of the Lehman faculty for more than 40 years, is known for his best-selling works like Picnic, Lightning, Questions about Angels and The Art of Drowning. He has received numerous awards, including the Poetry Foundation's Mark Twain Award (2004) and fellowships from the New York Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. He was Poet Laureate of New York State from 2004-06.