Billy Collins on Finding Your Voice

“You ‘find your voice’ when you are able to invent this one character who resembles you, obviously, and probably is more like you than anyone else on earth, but is not the equivalent to you.

It is like a fictional character in that it has a very distinctive voice, a voice that seems to be able to accommodate and express an attitude that you are comfortable staying with but an attitude that is flexible enough to cover a number of situations. The character I invented, if I had to describe him, is probably an updating of a character you find strolling through the pages of English Romantic poetry. He is a daydreamer, obviously unemployed, plenty of time on his hands, spends a lot of time by himself, and has an unhealthy fascination with his thinking process, his own speculations and fantasies. So he is not a really new character. He is kind of a remodeling of this earlier Romantic character, the poet who would find himself daydreaming on a wayside bench somewhere.”

Billy Collins


Great lil’ inner-view into someone responsible for several poems that make me laugh. Like this one.

Another quote I enjoyed:

“I thought I would be completely content if I was recognized at some later point in my life as a third-rate Wallace Stevens.”

If I called you a “third-rate so-and-so,” is there any so-and-so out there, any hero or iconoclast you admire, that you’d actually be proud grateful and proud of being compared to them in this way?

I see myself as a bit of a third-rate Merlin Man. Probably a fourth-rate Louis C.K. But i don’t think I’d be proud of being called those… they’re just true.

I think I’d be proud of being described as a third-rate Robin Williams or a third-rate Bob Goff (but that one needs some explaining… some day).