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Introduction to Poetry

Introduction to Poetry

by Billy Collins

Language and Communication Theme

All the speaker of "Introduction to Poetry" wants is to communicate with his students. But, for whatever reason, they just aren't feeling it. Language may ultimately be to blame. See, the teacher and the students are using the same tools (words) but with very different understandings of what those tools are capable of. Most students, when they see a bunch words together on a page, look for what they think is the end product of weilding those tools—meaning. That's what words are for, right? Right. But words can also be used to communicate feeling—the way an abstract painter uses color or a jazz musician uses sound. Sure, a hammer is for pounding nails, but it can also be an axel, a fulcrum, a paperweight, or a murder weapon.

Questions About Language and Communication

  1. How does the use of figurative language help poets to communicate feeling? What is Collins trying to communicate through figurative language in "Introduction to Poetry?"
  2. If you understand what the words in a poem say or mean, do you understand the poem? How do you think the speaker would answer this question?
  3. Is this poem successful at communicating? Do you understand its meaning? What about emotionally? How does it make you feel?

Chew on This

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

The lesson of this poem is that poems should communicate both intellectually and emotionally. We should understand them and feel them all at once.

Poets should start using emoticons.

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