With cheers, laughter and occasional sighs, an ardent audience of close to 200 welcomed Billy Collins back to Featherstone Center for the Arts Tuesday night in the latest of his biennial Pathways/Featherstone Poetry Night readings.

Carly Simon introduced Billy Collins before he spoke at Featherstone's new Art Barn. — Maria Thibodeau

This in itself is no big news: Mr. Collins, who was United States poet laureate from 2001 to 2003 and became a popular guest on the Prairie Home Companion radio show, has made many fans on the Vineyard with his alternate-year appearances, which began in 2011. What made Tuesday’s reading different was where it took place: not under a canvas tent as in past years, but inside the brand-new Featherstone Art Barn, which was finished just in time for Mr. Collins’s return.

Mr. Collins was introduced by Carly Simon.

“It’s such an honor to have him here in this beautiful new place,” she told the crowd, in what was another first for the evening. “I’ve never introduced anybody before,” she said.

After meeting Mr. Collins and hearing him read his work at the home of Rose Styron during a previous visit, Ms. Simon recalled: “I whispered in his ear and said, I think I’m in love with you. And then I went home and read a whole lot of poems by Billy Collins... it made me feel he was reading my mind.”

During the evening, Mr. Collins read and discussed more than two dozen poems, on topics as diverse as Arkansas fainting goats (Down on the Farm) and loudmouths in jazz clubs (1960).

An aficionado of jazz and soul music, Mr. Collins structured his reading like a radio show or stage recital, briefly introducing each poem and explaining potentially obscure words such as “snood” and “mulishness.”

Featherstone executive director Ann Smith. — Maria Thibodeau

“I love little poems,” he said, before reading the nine-line Oh My God!, which archly begins “Not only in church/and nightly by their bedsides/do young girls pray these days.”

The even shorter Divorce took just four lines to sum up the dissolution of marriage: “Once, two spoons in bed/now tined forks/across a granite table/and the knives they have hired.”

The Vineyard audience laughed heartily at this conclusion. “Unusual reaction,” Mr. Collins observed.

Many of the poems Mr. Collins read on Tuesday are in his most recent book, The Rain in Portugal, but he also brought back some old favorites such as Forgetfulness.

Originally published in 1999, Forgetfulness remains a perfect example of the way Mr. Collins can travel from a flight of fancy to a moment of deep insight.

It begins, “The name of the author is the first to go,” and continues, almost comically at first, to list other forgettable facts. But by the end, “No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted/out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.”

Vineyard poet laureate Justen Ahren. — Maria Thibodeau

Mortality — his own, and others, as in the darkly matter-of-fact Me First — is a frequent subject in Mr. Collins’s work, and he cheerfully admits it. “It’s the context we live in,” he said. “Poets tend to be ringing the bell and reminding us of that.”

Following his reading, Mr. Collins answered questions and signed autographs for a long line of fans who had bought The Rain in Portugal and his children’s book, Voyage.

Asked whether, as a jazz-loving poet, he had ever considered recording with musicians, Mr. Collins was vehement. “I don’t like that,” he said. But, he added, he did take part in a music session where he had his own solo space, like the other performers, with rhythm accompaniment.

“I was an instrument,” he said. “That really worked.”