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 water-ski

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.

Billy Collins, “Introduction to Poetry” from The Apple That Astonished Paris. Copyright © 1988, 1996 by Billy Collins. Used by permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of the University of Arkansas Press, www.uapress.com.

Source: Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems, 1st ed. (Random House, 2001).