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
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Comments about Introduction To Poetry by Billy Collins

  • (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

    5 person liked.
    14 person did not like.
  • (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

  • (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

  • (9/5/2014 5:52:00 PM)

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

  • (9/5/2014 11:34:00 AM)

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

    (10/25/2016 6:59:00 PM)

    Blah, blah, blah. Are you serious? No truer words ever spoken or written about poetry? How much have you read? Collins' poem here is actually the opposite of what poetry is supposed to do for us. We are VERY MUCH SUPPOSED TO TRY TO UNDERSTAND ITS MEANING! ! ! The idea that we can enjoy the aesthetics of an artistic entity without arriving or trying to arrive at a meaning is absurd and insulting to the intellect. Of course we don't want to analyze something to death, but Collins exaggerates that point far beyond what is necessary to arrive at the truth of what we are supposed to do with poems. A good poem certainly DOES have a meaning, one intended by the author. The idea that we are to swim around in a poem and bump up against its verbs and nouns and grope for a light switch to illuminate the commas is very imaginative and colorful, but it hardly touches what poetry does for us. If only Collins were a poet, he would understand, but he is not one. i say again, he is not a poet. A true poet is desperately trying to convey a meaning, one that is possible only through a certain conjoining of words, positioned in a certain way, a certain order. The words, for the poet, must be chosen very carefully for their sound and length and for many other considerations. But for Collins, somehow a poem has only an idea, a quirky, clever, cute little mental gymnastics. Then he puts it into lines and somehow expect it to graduate to poetry, but it does not. Sorry for the negativity, but truth is better than sycophantic bowing. Collins thinks poetry is just a quirky or unusual thought about something, an original take on a very simple idea. For example, he will start with an ordinary thing like The Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe; then he will whip up insincere and untruthful cogitations about it, questions and perceptions that no one in his right mind ever came up with. something like this: I was sipping tea the other day when I happened to look at a shoe- how could the Old Lady ever have lived in a shoe? My mind runs on to contemplate how small her children must have been to fit in there. Was her husband a cobbler? Did the family suffer from athlete's foot? Wouldn't walking be redundant? Running? And on and on and on. Pablum. But he's not done. Then he versifies it by putting it into lines. And voila! A poem, he says. No, I say. Pablum. Nothing but pablum. Baby food served to toothless infants. Well, I, for one, don't play that game. Give me Robert Frost or T.S. Eliot or Emily Dickinson or Walt Whitman. I have no patience for this poetaster.

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

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

  • (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

  • (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

  • (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

  • (1/3/2014 7:04:00 PM)

    Reminds me of teaching days! (Report) Reply

  • (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

  • (10/29/2012 12:32:00 PM)

    Great poem! I love it! (Report) Reply

  • (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

  • (9/5/2012 7:09:00 AM)

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

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

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

  • (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

  • (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

  • (6/3/2009 11:43:00 AM)

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

  • (12/27/2008 4:07:00 PM)


    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.)
    (Report) Reply

    (7/11/2014 1:46:00 AM)


  • (10/2/2008 4:01:00 PM)

    Just discovered Billy Collins today! He himself holds up an idea like a multifaceted crystal and as it rotates he translates the light into such evocative and accessable poetry. Wonderful. (Report) Reply

# 77 poem on top 500 Poems

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