From 11:00PM PDT on Friday, July 1 until 5:00AM PDT on Saturday, July 2, the Shmoop engineering elves will be making tweaks and improvements to the site. That means Shmoop will be unavailable for use during that time. Thanks for your patience!
We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
Introduction to Poetry

Introduction to Poetry


by Billy Collins

Introduction to Poetry Theme of Education

From the title ("Introduction to Poetry") to the speaker (a teacher) this poem screams education. The speaker is bummed that his students seem to be unable to approach poems the way he wants them to. While the title and initial setting seem to fit with this theme of education, other aspects, word choice for example, and action (waterskiing? torture?), seem to contradict this theme. What's up Billy? Do you want to teach us something or not? Would you rather we learn about poetry or should we just chase rodents and waterski our lives away? In "Introduction to Poetry," the theme of education boils down to this: what is the difference between studying the arts (poetry specifically) in a traditional, book learnin' sense, and true understanding and appreciation of the arts?

Questions About Education

  1. Is arts education, like studying poetry, really necessary? What's the point? Does it help students in any practical way to face life outside the classroom? If so, how?
  2. Does the poem's speaker feel like his job, educating students about poetry, is important? What, in the poem, makes you think he does or doesn't?
  3. Does "Introduction to Poetry" paint an accurate picture of today's student? Why or why not? Try to be honest. Take a good look in the mirror but don't just consider yourself, think about your peers as well.

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Studying art and literature is a waste of students' time because the knowledge and understanding gained is not applicable in the "real world."

The whole point here is that poetry can't be understood. It's a mystery. So there's no real way to learn it in the first place.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...