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Introduction to Poetry
Introduction to Poetry
by Billy Collins
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Exploration Imagery

Symbol Analysis

 The poem is looked at, listened to, and rodent tested. This imagery supports one of Collins's central ideas in the poem, that reading poetry should be, like an exploration, an act of discovery. We get the sense from this imagery that reading poetry is less about dry analysis and more about surprise and adventure. You know what that means, Shmoopers. It's time to get your Indiana Jones on.

  • Lines 1-3: The speaker asks them to do a visual exploration of the poem. He asks them to "hold it up to the light," the way one might inspect some newly discovered object—like that time you cleaned out your backpack, and (re)discovered that thing at the bottom. You inspected it hoping to discover if it was animal, vegetable, mineral, or last semester's science project. Sometimes it's better not to know.
  • Line 4: The speaker asks us them to do an auditory exploration of the poem. The fact that we are given the image of someone exploring a beehive adds some tension and drama to the exploration—some sense of adventure.
  • Lines 5-8: The image of a mouse exploring a maze, searching for "his way out," is one of the clearest examples of exploration imagery in the poem. The image of a person searching the walls of a dark room for a light switch also captures that sense of exploration/adventure—it's scary and exciting at the same time.