Friday, September 4, 2009

Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins

Introduction to Poetry
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.

from The Apple that Astonished Paris, 1996


Oh, how I love Billy Collins! He's to poetry what John Wayne was to cowboys. LOL! Reading his poetry fills me with hope, which is no small thing these days. The poem above is an old one, but I don't think I've ever posted it here. It's my #1 favorite poem by Billy Collins. I have three or four of his books and I can't recommend just one. All of his books are amazing.

Wishing you love, peace, joy and blessings,



Kelly said...

I can see why this is your favorite... it's great!

Hope you have a wonderful weekend! Might be a rainy one.

Wine and Words said...

Wow, so thought provoking this one...and I fear that is exactly what I do. I can't help myself. I want to know what is really being talked about, what inspired the poem, and what is the damn bottom line. I am a person of very little patience....tenacity YES! Patience, not so much. I fear I am shallow....UGH!

Love to you this day my Marion!

Marion said...

Kelly, all we've been getting here are teasing clouds & humidity. I hope the rain comes to break the heat. You have a great weekend, too. Blessings!

Oh, Annie, you could never be shallow! Sometimes I want to dig around and find out the poet's background (you should see how many of my bookshelves are filled with biographies of poets!) but usually I try to find meaning within myself. When I first read this poem I thought about high school English and how they always had us dissect poems like frogs instead of just enjoying the poem for whatever it meant to us. I think the same poem can mean a different thing to each person who reads it. Have a wonderful weekend. Blessings!

Kay said...

excellent, 'they begin beating it with a hose to find out what it really means'.....absolutely! thanks for sharing

Marion said...

Hey, Kay! Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you enjoyed the poem. Blessings!

Renee said...

Marion you are so smart.


Karen said...

I love this poem! Billy Collins is so right about what we've done to poetry. I think this dissection is in large part responsible for the lack of popularity of poetry today. People have made poetry purposely inaccessible to most readers, who feel they aren't discerning enough to understand it.

I think a poem's like a peach -- we should bite into it and let it run down our chins. We can make a pie of it if we wish, or we might make a cobbler or a fuzzy navel -- or we might just eat a peach! (and what a weird and puny simile that is, Marion) LOL

Anyway, thanks for the introduction to Billy Collins. I have another to add to my growing list.

Have a great weekend! I'll be Grammying!

Marion said...

Renee, I wish I was half as smart as you. ;-) I mean that!!! I love you, sweet Renee! Blessings!

Karen, I thought your peach simile was perfect. You're probably right about why more people don't read poetry. There is still a lot of the high-brow, undecipherable crappy poetry out there. (I thumbed through a book of so-called 'promising new poets' and it stunk to high heaven---I wanted to show them Erin's poetry, or Rick's or yours and mine & SarahA's and so many others onlike like us!!) Have fun being a Grammy this weekend! Love & Blessings!

Margaret Pangert said...

Oh, yeah, Marion, this is a good one! I remember when he read a poem to commemorate 9/11: it was called Names and he mentioned several victims as well as what he felt just saying the names. Very moving. Can't believe you're citing him the week before 9/11!
i love this poem--you just have to get it in your gut. How did you get that photo with the ropes?! perfect! xx

Marion said...

Hey, Margaret. I didn't recall that Billy Collins had read that 9/11 commemoration poem, "The Names" until you mentioned it. Just another bout of synchronicity. I found the chair photo online. I just Googled chair and rope and found it. It fit the poem so perfectly! Glad you enjoyed your visit. Have a great weekend. Love & Blessings!

Renee said...

Marion I am writing and I am right beside that gorgeous picture of you at 21. You are stunning.

Thank you dear Marion for the bible passage it made me cry.

Love Renee xoxo

Caio Fernandes said...

hi Marion !!
i saw your comment at the Renee's blog and apreciated a lot i came her to "check you out " !
and what a good surprise , your blog is wonderful , it was a very good time i spent here reading it all !!!
see you !! thanks for all .

Snowbrush said...

Not THAT old, I would wager! I very much enjoyed its wonderful imagery.

Snowbrush said...

Is there the possibility of making it so that your readers would have to make the music play instead of making it stop? I have literally hit the pause button six times since I've been on your site, but the music just keeps on starting back.

Rikkij said...

Marion- I know someone who writes like that; where you have to tie em to a chair and torture the metaphors out of them. I liked this. Have a great weekend. I'm still travelling and rarely getting a connection. ~rick

Marion said...

Thanks, everyone for your comments. Rick, I've missed you! Be safe travelling. Love & Blessings, dear friend!

Snowbrush, sorry I can't accomodate you on the music thing, but this is my blog and I like my music to come on automatically. Don't you have a mute button or a way to turn your own volume down or off? Well, then, JUST DO IT! LOL! Blessings!

Caio Fernandes, thank you for stopping by. I'm so glad you enjoyed your visit. Blessings!!

Renee, glad you enjoyed the Bible verses. There's nothing like good scripture for comfort. I love you! Blessings...

Woman in a Window said...

I wish I'd have had this poem written round my face in University. Lit major and I hated every minute of the wringing of words. HA! I love it Marion! How can you remember all of these?

Marion said...

Annie, I can't remember them all, but I have beaucoups anthologies and 212 books of poetry to browse! Ha! Blessings, dear friend!

monk said...

Billy Collins is great... It was a lucky thing that he stopped by this small island and speak, he was just like his poems and I got my book autographed......

Marion said...

Erin, I called you Annie! Ha! I always think of the two of you as sisters in my brain. You know I know who you are....right? Love & Hugs!

Monk, you lucky dog, you! I have quite a few first editions and autographed books, but none by Billy Collins. Thanks for stopping by. Blessings!!

christopher said...

Marion, one more connection in the blogs. I have never visited before and what do I see, one of my favorite poems. This one is up on the Library Of Congress' one poem a day for English high school students. This was started, I believe under Billy Collin's residency there.

This one reads aloud just great, and I read it at a poetry reading a couple years ago. Anyone who finds this poem worthy of a space is a friend of mine.

Marion said...

Oh, Christopher, you've given away one of my favorite haunts, Poetry 180! I visit it often and admire Mr. Collins greatly for his work with students and poetry. I'm a bit of a poetry fanatic and get so pissed off when it's ignored in the schools. I know because my oldest daughter taught English for several years and the poetry chapters were pathetic, mostly old stuff and no contemporary poets.

Glad you enjoyed your visit. Come back anytime and hang out. Blessings!

Phoenix said...

I love this one! Thanks for sharing, Marion :)

Marion said...

You're very welcome, Phoenix. Thank you for being such a faithful reader. Blessings!