Billy Collins to Receive 2016 Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award

Billy Collins (credit Suzannah Gilman)


The Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award is an annual award given by the Tulsa Library Trust. Its purpose is to give formal recognition, on behalf of the Tulsa County community, to internationally acclaimed authors who have written a distinguished body of work and made a major contribution to the field of literature and letters.

The award consists of a $40,000 cash prize and an engraved crystal book.

Past award winners are Rick Atkinson (2015), Ann Patchett (2014), Kazuo Ishiguro (2013), Wendell Berry (2012), Alan Furst (2011), Ian McEwan (2010), Geraldine Brooks (2009), Michael Chabon (2008), Thomas Keneally (2007), Mark Helprin (2006), John Grisham (2005), Shelby Foote (2003), Joyce Carol Oates (2002), William Kennedy (2001), William Manchester (2000), Margaret Atwood (1999), E.L. Doctorow (1998), Dr. John Hope Franklin (1997), Neil Simon (1996), David McCullough (1995), Ray Bradbury (1994), Peter Matthiessen (1993), Norman Mailer (1992), Eudora Welty (1991), John le Carré (1990), Saul Bellow (1989), Toni Morrison (1988), John Updike (1987), Larry McMurtry (1986) and Norman Cousins (1985).


Dec. 2 and 3, 2016

Award Presentation at Black-tie Dinner
Friday, Dec. 2 • 6:30 p.m.
Central Library, Fifth Street and Denver Avenue

FREE Public Presentation
Saturday, Dec. 3 • 10:30 a.m.
Central Library, Fifth Street and Denver Avenue


Tulsa Library Trust and Tulsa City-County Library

Award Winner

Billy Collins, internationally renowned American poet, is the winner of the 2016 Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award.

Dubbed “the most popular poet in America” by the New York Times, Collins is famous for his conversational, witty poetry. Collins served as poet laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003 and poet laureate of New York State from 2004 to 2006. He is a distinguished professor of English at Lehman College of the City University of New York and senior distinguished fellow at the Winter Park Institute of Rollins College, as well as a faculty member at the State University of New York-Stonybrook.

Collins is the author of several books of poetry, including Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems (2013); Horoscopes for the Dead: Poems (2012); Ballistics: Poems (2008); She Was Just Seventeen (2006); The Trouble With Poetry (2005); Nine Horses (2002); Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems (2001); Picnic, Lightning (1998); The Art of Drowning (1995), which was a finalist for the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; Questions About Angels (1991), which was selected by Edward Hirsch for the National Poetry Series; The Apple That Astonished Paris (1988); Video Poems (1980); and Pokerface (1977). Collins’ poetry has appeared in anthologies, textbooks and a variety of periodicals, including Poetry, American Poetry Review, American Scholar, Harper’s, Paris Review and The New Yorker.

About Collins, the poet Stephen Dunn has said, “We seem to always know where we are in a Billy Collins poem, but not necessarily where he is going. I love to arrive with him at his arrivals. He doesn’t hide things from us, as I think lesser poets do. He allows us to overhear, clearly, what he himself has discovered.”

Collins was born in 1941 in New York City and grew up mainly in Queens. He wrote his first poem at age 12. In 1963 he received a B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, and went on to earn a doctorate in Romantic poetry from the University of California, Riverside, in 1971. His honors and awards include the Mark Twain Prize for Humor in Poetry, as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation and the New York Foundation for the Arts. He is the co-founder of the Mid-Atlantic Review.

Collins lives in Somers, New York.

About the Tulsa Library Trust

The Tulsa Library Trust is a public foundation created by private contributions to benefit Tulsa City-County Library. Income generated by the Trust's endowment is used to fund projects and purchase materials that the library could not afford through its operating budget.


Lynda Brownson is chairwoman of the 2016 Distinguished Author Award Dinner Committee, which is made up of more than 90 volunteers.

Rik Helmerich is president of the Tulsa Library Trust board.

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