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Introduction to Poetry

Introduction to Poetry

by Billy Collins

Art and Culture Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

or press an ear against its hive. (4)

The speaker doesn't say listen to the poem. We are asked to put our ear against it. What the speaker describes goes beyond just looking at words on a page. This feels more intense than just looking and listening. There is contact here. And we are pressing our ear against something full of life and energy and danger (and yes, probably honey, too).

Quote #2

or walk inside the poem's room (7)

The poem is personified here. It has its own room. No roommate. Nice. Here again, the poem is more than a collection of words. It has a life. Go ahead, look around. Check out poem's new flat screen, and how about that Star Wars figurine collection!

Quote #3

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it. (12-14)

The personification continues. The poem really takes on human characteristics here. It can be tied up, tortured, made to confess. The poem has feelings. It has come to life. It can maybe even talk (if its mouth isn't duct taped). We are familiar with phrases that suggest that art is, in a sense, alive. A song speaks to us, a painting creates a sense of romance or despair. A tube of red paint alone can't do that. But in the hands of an artist, it can. Words alone can't do it, but filtered through a poet and given form as a poem, they can come to life—they can become art.

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