Monday, August 4, 2014

Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins

William “Billy” Collins is an American poet who served two terms as the U. S. Poet Laureate from 2001 to 2003 as well as New York State Poet for 2004. I try to picture why he goes by Billy and not William or Bill. I would imagine his mom calling him William when he didn't eat his peas.

A few years back I shared here his hilarious Another Reason I Don't Keep a Gun in the House about a neighbor's dog that wouldn't stop barking. We've probably all been in similar situations. When I lived in Puerto Rico for a year in 1979 we only had screens on the windows with louvres that opened and shut for privacy when changing. The neighborhoods in San Juan are tightly packed and at night the sound would carry. One evening around one in the morning a dog somewhere nearby was barking and barking and barking. I was now wide awake and what happened next went like this: bark bark bark bark bark bang.

No more barking.

Poetry, like a walk through the woods or along the beach, is one of those pleasures we never seem to take enough time for. When I return to a favorite poem -- one of my favorites is Collins' Aristotle -- it always seems to give a lift, or leave something in you that remains precious.

Introduction to Poetry

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.

Copyright Billy Collins

Today is Monday.

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