P is for Poetry

| April 28, 2014

P is for POETRY (and not just in April)
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 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.

I love this poem—and the poet, Billy Collins has a way of writing sweet, sad, funny poems that are accessible yet lasting. I find myself laughing out loud at the astuteness of his observation. In “Introduction to Poetry.” Collins gets to something essential. He describes wanted students to experience and enjoy poetry. It’s the difference of savoring a delicious meal with all your senses and analyzing the separate ingredients.

Poetry is a thing many students approach with dread. They assume it will be tortuous, elusive, and abstract. Many adults that I know feel the same. The last poetry they read was in high school. The assumption is that it either has to rhyme or be dense and difficult. Certainly it won’t be an aesthetic experience. Do we experience the power and playfulness of poetry in education?