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

  • Ernest Makuakua Ernest Makuakua (1/29/2016 4:11:00 AM)

    true sometimes we just have to find the meaning to understand what the poem is about
    simply because we write with a motive

    thanks for sharing love it.
    i invite you to read my new poem. What is poetry to you (Report) Reply

    1 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • Raymond Farrell (1/25/2016 8:19:00 AM)

    Pretty much sums it up. And then you got people trying to tell everyone what some of this surrealistic type material written by Ashbury and Stevens is all about and none of them can arrive at a concensus. It is nice to see something written in plain English about the subject. (Report) Reply

  • Wes Dixon Wes Dixon (11/25/2015 3:07:00 PM)

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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • Lorraine Margueritte Gasrel Black (9/5/2014 11:34:00 AM)

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

  • Pranab K Chakraborty Pranab K Chakraborty (9/5/2014 10:05:00 AM)

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

  • 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

  • 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

  • * 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

  • Pat Goehrig (1/3/2014 7:04:00 PM)

    Reminds me of teaching days! (Report) Reply

  • 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

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

    Great poem! I love it! (Report) Reply

  • 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. (Report) Reply

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

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

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

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

  • 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

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Poem Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003



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