Sunday, January 18, 2009

So You Think You Don't Like Poetry

(Part 2 in an Ongoing Series)

As promised, here is another poem that I challenge you NOT to like: "Introduction to Poetry" by former poet laureate 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.

Collins is one of our most accessible and popular contemporary poets and some even feel (cough, J.D. McClatchy, cough) he's too mainstream, as if accessibility is somehow a bad thing. I happen to like his work quite a bit and think that this poem captures the anxiety and frustration many people feel when asked to read a poem and "get it." Sometimes there is nothing to get-- a good poem is like a room you wander into for a little while, a nice place to get lost.

This concludes your weekly dose of poetry.

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