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.”