WORLD POETRY DAY: A Billy Collins Poem

It’s World Poetry Day again. Even if you think you don’t like poetry, I’m betting that you will like Billy Collins.
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Here’s a poem he wrote about what he’d like people to get out of his poems, and what happens to the poems when critics and academics start analyzing them.

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.

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“Introduction to Poetry” from The Apple that Astonished Paris, © 1988, 1996 by Billy Collins – University of Arkansas Press


BILLY COLLINS (born March 22, 1941 – ) dubbed “the most popular poet in America” by Bruce Weber in the New York Times, a two-term U.S. Poet Laureate (2001-03), has published many poetry collections, including Questions About Angels, The Art of Drowning and Nine Horses: Poems. It was Questions About Angels, published in 1991, that put him in the literary spotlight. 

Collins says his poetry is “suburban, it’s domestic, it’s middle class, and it’s sort of unashamedly that.”

His career: Distinguished Professor of English at Lehman College and founding advisory board member for CUNY Institute for Irish-American studies; Senior Distinguished Fellow of the Winter Park Institute in Florida; member at the State University of New York-Stonybrook Southampton; poetry consultant for Smithsonian Magazine; faculty writer-in-residence at Sarah Lawrence College; served as Literary Lion of the New York Public Library; US Poet Laureate, 2001-2003; New York State Poet Laureate from 2004-2006; has also taught at Columbia University; appears regularly on National Public Radio and was guest host for “The Writer’s Almanac,” June-August 2013.

The dead-pan delivery which he has mastered reminds me of Bob Newhart.  It’s easy to see why he’s been a popular guest on National Public Radio programs.




Happy Birthday tomorrow, Billy Collins!

About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for the past 45 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband and a bewildered Border Collie.
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2 Responses to WORLD POETRY DAY: A Billy Collins Poem

  1. Always enjoy reading this poem!

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