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Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins shows a fascinating drama of what a poem can do. It is written as a lesson of poetry where the reader is the student, and the author is the teacher. By using many literary devices and tone, the teacher advice how to understand a poem and not to expect a literal meaning of it. He wants that people enjoy poetry for the piece of art that it is. By analyzing the poem deeply, it is deductible that Collins is teaching the reader what a poem is, and how to read it in order to experience it.
From the beginning of the poem, it is clear the scholastic feel that Collins gives to the reader. The title "Introduction to Poetry" is letting the reader know already that this is a lesson of poetry that may teach what a poem is and what can do, and instantaneously makes the reader take the rule of a student. In the first tree line, the author says: "I ask them to take a poem/ and hold it up to the light/ like a color slide" (Collins 1-3). The author, who is beginning his lesson, means with this metaphor that poem contain images that can be seen just when the light passes thought it. He asks the reader to see the poem closely through the color slide in order to see the image like if it was the examination of a dark photograph. This make the reader make the motion of his mind of being observing the poem by holding it up to the light to catch the hidden images that verse poems have in it. The second verse "or press an ear against its hive." (Collins 4), consist only of one line. He implies that poems, in addition to images, have sweet meaning that can be heard; and he ask the students to listen carefully to the poem like if they were placing the ear against a beehive and hear the bees making the honey. He make the impression that one's the student hear it, this student will collect the sweet nectar of the poem which is the meaning of it.
The author keeps the poem with the same spirituality of teaching poetry and saying what does he want for the students to do. He continue with the third verse saying "I say drop a mouse into a poem/ and watch him prove his way out," (Collins 5-6). It is like if it were a scientific experiment where the reader is put inside a labyrinth that will find at the end of the lecture the "way out" or the meaning of it. It also means that never stop reading until you find the reward putting the student as the mouse that will venture inside poem while reading it. In the fourth verse he means with "or walk inside the poem's room/ and feel the walls for a light switch."(Collins 7-8) that the poem is already dark when the reader starts reading, and some people will be impatient with the darkness. However, when the reader keeps reading it, he or she will gets rid of the darkness and feels the reward of the light switch by finding the meaning and knowing what the poem is about. The final desire of the teacher for the student is: "I want them to waterski/ across the surface of a poem/ waving at the author's name on the shore." (Collins 9-11). The author wants the reader to enjoy the poem by having fun and excitement with it like if it was a waterski and keep going across the surface of the poem. At the same time the author is on the shore watching the enjoyment and hoping that the reader does not lose balance while enjoying it.
On the other hand, the author make a contrast and mention what the people do instead with the poem in the last two verses, implying that he does not want that this happens while reading poetry. He says;
"But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession of it.
They begin beating it with a hose
To find out what it really means." (Collins 12-16).
He means with it that the reader thinks of poem like if it was a prisoner that deserves to be tie to a chair and be tortured to make the poem confess his meaning. He means with "torture" that people force the meaning and go so deeply that what reminds in the surface is forgotten. He author implies that the reader does not have to attack the poem that way trying to find the meaning because by doing that, the reader is not experiencing the poem the way that the author wants it to be expensed. The author do not expect that the reader adopt a negative king of matters while reading poetry when he compares poem with a prisoner that is being tied to a chair and tortured with a hose by the reader jeering this way of the incorrect attitudes that people have with poetry.
At the end of the poem, Collins defines the point of view of some people toward poetry, and how this people run into a brick wall of stubbornness to find the meaning of a poem. People expect poetry to have one meaning or one answer that is complicated to find, but poetry is not like that and Callings demonstrate it in his poem. He tries to teach how to experience and find the many meanings of a poem, and he succeed it by using images trough the all poem which were "color slide" at the beginning, then "hive", the third is "mouse", the fourth is "light switch", fifth is waterski and the two last ones were torture and hose which were used to contrast at the end. Collins wrote a great lesson which teach and made the people know what a poem really is and change the way this people will read the poem in the future.
Collins, Billy . "Introduction to Poetry". Literature for Composition. Ed. Sylvan
Barnet, William Burto, and William E. Cain. 9th ed. New York: Longman, 2011.