Introduction to Poetry
by 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.
From The Apple that Astonished Paris. Fayetteville, Arkansas, University of Arkansas Press, 1988. Of relevance is a comment by Don Paterson, who in 2004 said in Verse that, “If you want meaning, read history, read philosophy, but poetry’s not about meaning at all. . . . It’s about connecting you back up to a primal feeling of unity.”