Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sharing A Poem About Poems

I love this poem, because I abhor having to determine what a poem "means." I will never forget being shut down by a teacher when I offered my interpretation of the poem  "When I Am Old I Shall Wear Purple". I thought it was one woman's depressing and morose statement on life and aging. The teacher quickly moved to another student who offered the widely agreed upon interpretation that it was defiant and jubilant, etc. I felt like an idiot, but having just read it again, and I stand by my original take. I guess I will never be a red hat.

For me, reading a poem is like being in the path of a gust of wind, or fording a large, shiny puddle: a natural thing of beauty that you step through on your way to the rest of your life. 

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, 1996. 


Kelley said...

I love this poem Dallas thanks for posting it. I can relate to it on so many levels. To answer your question...I have always been an artist but its showed itself recently on canvas. I wanted to chronicle my journey and this is a great format. So keep checking in for new stuff...its flowing daily. PS. Thanks : )

Jon said...

My friend Paoli's parents know Billy Collins from Lehman College. Paolo introuced me to his poems in college and we loved them. They are almost comic in their simplicity but somehow each one of them is so identifiable. I haven't read him in a long time, thanks for reminding me...