Billy Collins takes readers on improbable mental journeys sparked by the smallest stimuli—think Coolio in “Fantastic Voyage,” but if he were a former U.S. Poet Laureate and the song was a glimpse into the sadness of the universe inspired by a rubber ducky. In “The Flâneur,” a poem in his newly released collection Horoscopesfor the Dead, Collins starts on a stroll in Florida and ends up in a state of cosmic recollection by way of an imagined Paris, a suitable arc for a poet whose best work routinely journeys from the situational to the metaphysical. A remarkably accessible writer whose short, prosaic verse has made him a rare best-selling poet, Collins demystifies his medium while reminding us of its allure. Maybe something really mundane you tell him at tonight’s reading will inspire a poem about the dark humor of mortality! Or maybe he’ll just sign your book.

Billy Collins speaks at 7 p.m. at Politics and Prose Bookstore & Coffeehouse, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free.

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