Poem of the Week: “Introduction to Poetry,” by Billy Collins

This is a new regular post I’m cooking up where I’m going to try to share a poem each week that has stuck out to me. I’ll give you some of my thoughts, and, I hope, offer you something to enjoyable or thought-provoking to read. Hope you enjoy it. 

Billy CollinsIf you know the name of only one living poet, it’s probably either Mary Oliver or Billy Collins. Collins, I think, is pretty popular because he’s funny and doesn’t take himself too seriously. What I really like about him, though, is that he still manages to make some pretty important points through his playful style. If you aren’t really into poetry, but are looking for reasons to be, he’s a great way to start.

In this poem, Billy sticks it to Academia, specifically wannabee students who are trying too hard to analyze. I think a lot of people don’t like poetry or say they, “don’t get it,” because they think it has to be something deep and mysterious, which often means dull and pretentious. It certainly can be all of that, but at it’s core, good poetry is doing something similar to what a great photograph or painting does. It’s capturing a moment, and how it’s done can say some pretty powerful things. But, the power is more in what it makes you feel than what profound point it makes.


Introduction to Poetry

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide


or press an ear against its hive.


I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,


or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.


I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.


But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.


They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.
from The Apple That Astonished Paris, published by University of Arkansas Press 1988apple that astonished paris

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