Image by Richard Johnson

Introduction to Poetry

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.

- by Billy Collins, from The Apple That Astonished Paris.


  1. Love it! Graphic too.

  2. What a wonderful grasp the writer has of what poetry is and is not! Too often students can try to dissect it like a lab specimen.

  3. ...the last two lines... yes, they really say it all...


Please THINK before you write
and PRAY before you think!