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Introduction to Poetry

Introduction to Poetry


by Billy Collins

Introduction to Poetry Theme of Exploration

In "Introduction to Poetry," we're asked to explore a poem using sight, sound, and touch. The mouse meanders through the maze. We are asked to fumble around the walls of a dark room for a light switch. Again and again, Collins presents us with this idea of exploration. So what's up? Does Collins lead a sheltered life? Was he forced to live in a closet below the stairs until a white owl…scratch that. In fact, it is this sense of adventure and exploration that the speaker and, presumably, Collins want to instill in the students when they look at poems.

Questions About Exploration

  1. Is it really necessary to "explore" a poem to understand it? Can you achieve the same level of understanding through traditional analysis—the "tie the poem to a chair" method? Why or why not?
  2. Which one of the exploration methods described by Collins do you relate to the most? Did the idea of visual or auditory exploration make more sense to you? Why?
  3. Are there other applications for this strategy of exploration? What other traditional approaches might benefit from a little more open curiosity and exploration?

Chew on This

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

This is a fluffy way of looking at poetry. There's no substance here. You can't just waterski on top of a poem. You have to dive in, with your dictionary handy.

This speaker doesn't give kids enough credit. They're fully capable of exploring a poem on their own.

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