• the thought fox

introduction to poetry

I first encountered this Billy Collins masterpiece during a class in college. My favorite literature teacher was teaching it and she had asked us all to bring a poem to class. The theme was protest. My friend brought this poem and the session started with "an introduction to poetry" 🙂

I wish I'd read this poem when i was in school, studying literature. One of the problems with being a Shakespeare enthusiast as a kid is that you turn poetry into a sacred artefact that must be worshiped, something that must be "cracked" open to reveal THE TRUTH. This is a problem.

Anything becomes a problem when you become too academic about it. You start to distance yourself from spontaneity and affect.... and so I learnt slowly to love simplicity. To let a poem wash over you. To allow myself time and space to build a relationship with the words, the sounds and the metaphors.... Poetry doesn't have to be spiritual or mystic. Poetry can be silly. Humorous. Rhyming. Blank verse. No verse at all. Political. "Apolitically"political. Protest. Militant. Romantic. Poetry can be anything. as long as there are words. And sometimes even that may not be really necessary...


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.

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