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(22 March 1941 - / New York City)

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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.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003


Read poems about / on: poem, light, poetry

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Comments about this poem (I Go Back To The House For A Book by Billy Collins )

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  • Pat Goehrig (1/3/2014 7:04:00 PM)

    Reminds me of teaching days!

    5 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • K Ormosi (3/27/2013 7:46:00 AM)

    It’s Not Easy Being Poetry

    Yesterday, I spotted a poem through the window.
    darting across Main Street
    it narrowly escaped the embrace
    of two fervid lovers
    and panted feverishly
    as it ducked into my diner
    where the waitress dreamily
    poured a steaming cup
    of coffee
    right into its lap.

  • isabella Quintana (10/29/2012 12:32:00 PM)

    Great poem! I love it!

  • Carlos Echeverria (9/5/2012 10:54:00 AM)

    A poem is always there
    waiting to be caught,
    right out of thin air.

    It can't be sought-
    after,
    and never, ever bought.

  • Prasanna Kumari (9/5/2012 7:09:00 AM)

    you have described poetry in a pleasurable and interesting way...beautiful

  • Nurain Ali-balogun (10/8/2011 5:54:00 AM)

    Nice poem; more than nice actually.

  • Joe Antebi (11/15/2010 6:02:00 PM)

    Literally, Billy Collins informs his readers to read poetry for enjoyment instead of dissecting it and trying to figure out a deeper meaning. Ironically, as a reader, I am still trying to dissect his poem. I realized that the word 'poem' can be substituted with the word 'snake' which completely makes sense. Collins uses phrases such as 'I dropp a mouse into the poem' and ' I want them to waterski across the surface of the poem' which alludes to the characteristics of a snake. Does anybody agree?

  • Bill Tirnier (11/6/2010 1:02:00 PM)

    Robert Frost once made similar comments about dissecting a poem. I heard them years ago on an old scratchy record where he was reading his poems at a college. It was wonderful to see similar thoughts put down in verse and to see two great poets voicing the same sentiments.

  • Sandra Andrew (6/3/2009 11:43:00 AM)

    His poem was touching, makes you feel different ways about the poem.

  • Bob Beers (12/27/2008 4:07:00 PM)

    DEAR BILLY COLLINS

    Where’s the one
    where you crawl under skin
    pierce the bad man’s heart
    get dirty with the homeless
    save the world from annihilation?

    You waterski and wave,
    dropp a mouse and feel for a switch,
    press an ear and see the light.

    Superman, yes!
    Or is it Clark Kent?

    I see you working at the Planet
    reclined in your favorite chair
    more powerful than a locomotive.
    Feel you forming your next word,
    bending steal with bare hands.

    But, where’s the one that speaks
    of pain, of fear, of vice and sin?

    I want to be your neighbor on Lois Lane
    lined with elm trees and picket fence.

    Very truly yours, Bob Beers


    (Sorry, the system insists on placing an extra p in drop.)

Read all 20 comments »

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