Introduction to Poetry By Billy Collins–A Tangible way of thinking

30 Nov

Taylor Pearson

At first glimpse, Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins gives the reader a taste of the ‘tangible’ side of poetry.  One that can be held “up to the light like a color slide” and water-skied across as the reader waves “at the author’s name on the shore” (line 1,5). Collins envisions a form of literature unlike any of its predecessors and hopes to introduce a new variety of analysis to the next generation.  Introduction to Poetry nails modern poetry analysis on the head. While students inflict torturous “confession” out of innocent poems, even the most educated people have lost their patience in analyzing complex poetry. Today, pupils are only interested in denoted surface word scrambles and have become afraid of making like archaeologists and digging a little deeper.

Though it seems too late to teach countless generations stuck in their ways, Collins puts aside all limitations to teach a necessary ‘crash course’ in an introduction to poetry. Collins personifies poetry and utilizes various metaphors to convey his argument.  In Collins’ opinion, readers should “press their ears against” poetry’s hive and suck its nectar that is, in fact, flawless because it’s content is not completely understood (line 2).  Though poetry sometimes is denoted into specific, literal images, effective analysis involves holistic connotation that utilizes figurative assumptions and overtones.

            Through environmental metaphors, Collins portrays the ways in which poems, like nature, are not fully uncovered in meaning.  Brushing the surface of the poem with a water-ski and dropping a mouse into poem are just a few ways that Collins suggests to get up close and personal with poetry (line 5, 3). However, a poem, like a relationship, requires effort and commitment.  However, many pupils still lack patience with poetry: “All they want to do is tie the poem to a chair with rope and torture a confession out of it…(and beat) it with a hose to find out what it really means”(line 7-8). Short cuts may come in handy when driving to work; but when it comes to poetry analysis, there is no easy way out.

In this ‘short and sweet’ poem, Billy Collins provides a crash course in the ideal approach to ‘tangible’ poetry. Patience is the greatest virtue. Though it is tempting to pry definitions and broad interpretations out of a given text, one must approach poetry like any relationship—with patience.  I concur with Collins’ message. Although some may feel that poems loose their meaning when one pries deeper, a proper relationship with poetry requires depth.  With exuberant personification and numerous metaphors, Billy Collins says it best within his informative and incisive Introduction to Poetry.










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