Consoling Lines for those with


Consoling Lines for those with Fear of Poetry

From Billy Collins, the following consolation. It isn't a particularly good poem--a bit of light verse in fancy dress with a seeming message. Nevertheless, it does address the issue. I include only the last two stanzas. The first five recount the attempts of the professor to get the students to listen to, read, and enjoy the poem for itself ("hold it up to the light," "press an ear against its hive," etc.)

from "Introduction to Poetry" Billy Collins

But alll 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.

Well, you sure don't need to beat this poem with a hose to find out what it means. Rather than spend the time going over the flaws in these five lines, I will leave you with the admonition and encouragement that meaning comes from reading and rereading, not from some imaginary imposed construct that your Sophomore English teacher told you to use when you read poetry. First read and enjoy, second find meaning, if you must. The difficulty with most poetry is that unlike prose, it does not blossom on first read. The advantage is that most poetry is sufficiently short that you could read the poem ten or fifteen times in the time it would take to finish one medium-length newspaper article. And the vast majority of poetry, even that of Billy Collins is worth infinitely more than the vast majority of even the best-written newspaper articles. Enjoy, enjoy, and get meaning later. Poetry is not frightening. It doesn't need to be wrestled with, merely read and enjoyed.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on October 9, 2002 7:43 AM.

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