Billy Collins

(22 March 1941 - / New York City)

Introduction To Poetry - Poem by Billy Collins

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.

Comments about Introduction To Poetry by Billy Collins

  • Rookie - 0 Points Wes Dixon (11/25/2015 3:07:00 PM)

    Yup...that's what I remember from 8th grade English Class! ! ! (Report) Reply

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  • Rookie - 0 Points Dimitris Gerogalakis (10/29/2015 7:22:00 PM)

    When I was younger, about 10 or 15 years ago, I don't know I have lost count, I thought that poetry had rules and what I was writing was faulty or just simply rubbish... What time has taught me is that there are no rules in poetry, no fouls to commit, there is only your naked soul, laid down right there, exposed. Only this time it felt more secure than ever... (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 406 Points George Hill (9/9/2015 9:15:00 AM)

    This man no poet nor fine artist.His writings are quite bland and without panache.-Albert George Vinny (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 369 Points Donald Charon (9/20/2014 12:57:00 PM)

    Wow. I would love the chance to sit in a class of yours. Expression of soul, not merely function. (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 11,360 Points Frank Avon (9/18/2014 1:02:00 PM)

    OK, Billy, this is indeed what poetry requires. But as your essays on the need for accessible poems make clear, it's also important that a poem leaves one with a sense of what it really means, and all of yours - every one I've ever read - accomplishes that with perfection. Most poems invite one to waterski on the surface; fewer invite one to feel for the light switch inside. This one, of course, does both. (Report) Reply

  • Veteran Poet - 1,789 Points Oduro Bright Amoh (9/5/2014 5:52:00 PM)

    An introduction to poetry indeed! Very true. They just want to beat meaning into poetry (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 5,839 Points Lorraine Margueritte Gasrel Black (9/5/2014 11:34:00 AM)

    no truer words have been spoken or written about poetry.. (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 6,116 Points Pranab K Chakraborty (9/5/2014 10:05:00 AM)

    Innovative idea. And for this excellence should be honored. (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 11,360 Points Frank Avon (9/5/2014 12:37:00 AM)

    This poem illustrates why Billy Collins is perhaps the most popular living poet today. He was, IMO, the best poet laureate we have had. He promotes poems that are accessible, and yet thoughtful, polished, challenging us to think. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Ol Boy (7/11/2014 1:42:00 AM)

    Hive. maze, light. Shoulda ended on light.

    Waterskiing. With my pants down. First time I got up they went down.
    I stayed up for a time.5 minutes.
    5 minutes my little white 6th-grade penis dangling.12-person audiences.

    Yes, waterskiing. Hive, maze, light. Waterskiing.

    Interrogation scene moir perry mason.

    They begin beating it with a hose
    to find out what it really knows.

    is the last line REALLY. And it should be capitalized.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    It's about the poem being the poet.

    no more, no less. (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 36,605 Points * Sunprincess * (6/22/2014 8:11:00 PM)

    ...........this sounds like me so long ago....I wanted to tie poems to a chair, interrogate them....and keep them locked in a room until they gave me the right answers.... (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Pat Goehrig (1/3/2014 7:04:00 PM)

    Reminds me of teaching days! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie 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. (Report) Reply

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

    Great poem! I love it! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie 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-
    and never, ever bought. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 229 Points Prasanna Kumari (9/5/2012 7:09:00 AM)

    you have described poetry in a pleasurable and interesting way...beautiful (Report) Reply

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

    Nice poem; more than nice actually. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie 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? (Report) Reply

  • Rookie 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. (Report) Reply

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

    His poem was touching, makes you feel different ways about the poem. (Report) Reply

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Read poems about / on: poem, light, poetry

Poem Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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