Musician Aimee Mann and poet Billy Collins perform together for three-city tour

Arts & Lectures will present an acoustic music and poetry event at Campbell Hall titled “Words and Music: An Evening with Billy Collins and Aimee Mann” tomorrow night, featuring former U.S. Poet Laureate and best-selling poet Billy Collins alongside acclaimed singer-songwriter Aimee Mann, best-known for her soundtrack for the film “Magnolia.”

The event is part of a three-city tour held by the duo. After performing this evening at Pepperdine, the two will continue north to perform here tomorrow and then in Santa Rosa later this week. Collins served with the 107th U.S. Congress between 2001 and 2003 as the Poet Laureate, an appointed position chosen each election year.

Associate director of USCB Arts & Lectures Roman Baratiak said the two met recently after Mann was asked by President Obama to perform at the White House, despite never having performed together before.

“They first met one another at a function at the White House, where Aimee was performing,” Baratiak said. “She was super impressed with him, and they hit it off.”

According to a press release for tomorrow’s performance, Collins is “an American phenomenon” whose work has appeared in The New Yorker and The Paris Review, in addition to poetry collections he has published such as “Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry” and “Ballistics.”

“No poet since Robert Frost has managed to combine high critical acclaim with such broad popular appeal,” the release stated.

According to Baratiak, Collins played a proactive role during his time as Poet Laureate and was able to generate large national interest in poetry due to his many public appearances.

“Billy was one of those [poets] who was extremely active and traveled to many places around the country,” Baratiak said. “Because his work is really accessible, I think he got a lot of people excited about poetry,”

Baratiak said Billy Collins has presented on a number of occasions at Arts & Lectures events and possesses a talent for “bringing his poems to life” through wit and humor. He also said Collins’ skill at engaging audiences will enhance Aimee’s performance.

“He’s really good in terms of how he reads his poetry. There are some people where, really, it’s sort of better just to read the poem,” Baratiak said. “He will put Aimee Mann at ease. I think the two of them could be an interesting pair.”

According to the press release, Mann has been working in a “highly collaborative mode” in a band with singer-songwriter Ted Leo called The Both, which released their self-titled debut album yesterday.


A version of this story appeared on page 1 of Wednesday, April 16, 2014’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.