Tomas Monzon English I Poetry Response Introduction to Poetry, by Billy Collins

2/3/2009 Period 1

This poem called my attention as soon as I heard the name. “Introduction to Poetry”. I felt compelled to read it, quite honestly, for two reasons – 1. it's the first poem on our poem handout, and 2. it says “introduction”. Maybe I missed something when I started reading poetry. Could this poem help patch up the holes? It's a short poem, with simple words, and a simple message. But, there is beauty in simplicity, a saying might say, and truly, this poem exhibits it. Introduction to Poetry, by Billy Collins, is a near-factual account of how many students (including myself, somewhat) react to poetry. Poetry is meant to be enjoyed, meant to express beauty through words, more than prose, really. Some students though, especially when they do not read or write poetry outside of school (once again, much like myself) get a poem and see it as an obstacle course with sandbags and hurdles spelling out misunderstood phrase, cryptic vocabulary, and that is the wrong message. This is really what this poem in particular is all about, the race and sole mission of understanding a poem's message and then stopping there; and it is so simplistic and truthful in its expression of the same that it makes you chuckle inside. Everyone, I think, always laughs when literature is dead-on about something we've experienced or about something we think is particularly trivial; like relationship and teenage love books that discuss how girls feel about boys (and vice versa) with such astounding accuracy. This poem is just that – except it talks about poetry. The message of this poem is found within its individual lines and stanzas. The first stanza says, “I ask them to take a poem and hold it up to the light like a color slide.” At first, one can comment on the fact that the poem could apply to the never-ending war of an English or Language Arts teacher. In fact, this can be considered as having been written by a teacher, spelling out the nature of her students, when they are asked to look at poetry, within a set of phrases. The first stanza, along with the second, “or press an era against its hive.”, is clearly indicative of finding the underlying message within a poem. Poems are meant, once again, to be enjoyed, but part of the nature of a poem is that, in most cases, its message is never plainly given. Instead, poets have chosen to write their messages in, what students in this poem would call, “cryptic and unintelligible words”. It's part of the beauty, though – finding what the author is really trying to say. A color slide can't be seen too well in the dark. You have to hold it up to the light, a bright light, to see what's on the slide and see the whole picture. The hive of a poem stores its message. If you press your ear against it, you'll hear all the words and understand it right. They're metaphors, and they're analogous to understanding a poem. This is accompanied, also, by the stanza “or walk inside the poem's room and feel the walls for the light switch.” Turn on the light, and you'll be able to see what's inside. The stanza “I want them to water-ski across he surface of a poem waving at the author's name on the shore.” also may be considered to go hand-in-hand with the previous stanzas, but at first sight, it's a little different. It expresses a similar message. If you ride the waves of a place, you're familiar with the conditions of the sea, you're accustomed to the strength of the waves. This is akin to familizrizing yourself with the words of a poem. With understanding where the author is coming from, where the author got heir inspiration from, understanding the author, as if she were telling you the story from across the shore. The last two stanzas discuss what really occurs when students get a poem, what is the conflict to the ideal way students should interpret a poem. “But all they want to do is tie the poem to a chair with a rope and torture a confession out of it.” Then, “They begin beating it with a hose To find out what it really means/” This is akin to sitting at your desk, tapping your pen or pencil desperately, and trying to read between the lines, ignoring the beauty of the poem, and just dissecting what the author's trying to say. Take it for a mess of cryptic words. Take it for a law document, not for a beautiful expression of self. The poem, Introduction to Poetry, is elegant in its simplicity, but factual, really, in its message.

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