Tuesday, April 2, 2013

It's Still National Poetry Month: Poem #2

Now I have this idea to post one great poem a day. Not the most original idea for National Poetry Month, but my poems are going to be the best ones.

Introduction to Poetry
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 water-ski
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.

And that is why smart people like my husband don't like poetry because they think that poetry is hard. They think there's some kind of secret code or complicated formula that they never got, and that you can't read a poem properly unless you have the code so that you can figure out "what it really means", because otherwise, what's the point?

Well, he is an engineer. Maybe that's why he thinks this way. But I think it has more to do with clumsy or misguided teachers who thought that the purpose of reading poetry is to Find the Hidden Meaning. And maybe not having been given the right kind of poetry to read.

Let us all pledge henceforth and forever to read and teach poetry the Billy Collins way.

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