The poet Billy Collins served as the United States Poet Laureate from 2001 to 2003. His new collection of poems is titled Horoscopes for the Dead.
From Collins's Q & A with Steven Kurutz at the Wall Street Journal:
When do you decide you have enough poems for a collection?--Marshal Zeringue
That's in the very back of my mind. One swings like Tarzan—from book to book, instead of from vine to vine. But as I'm writing an individual poem, a book is the last thing on my mind. I'm just trying to write a good poem. I send my poems to a friend, a younger poet named George Green, who grades them: A, B, C, D. After a couple of years, if I have 60 or so poems—if I have a lot of As and Bs—then it starts looking like a book.
What's the inspiration for the title poem ["Horoscopes for the Dead"] of your new book?
My poems tend not to be terribly personal in the autobiographical sense. I assume strangers are about as interested in my personal life as I am in theirs—which is to say not very much. But a longtime friend of mine, Michael Shannon [the co-founder, with Mr. Collins, of the Mid-Atlantic Review], passed away a few years ago. Our birthdays were around the same time of the year. I sometimes read horoscopes. So after he died, I'd read my Aries and shift over to his Pisces. I like the title in that it conveys a hopeless optimism.
For someone who grew up in Queens, your poems don't feature much urban imagery.