Study Guide

Introduction to Poetry Exploration

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I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide (1-3)

What happens when you hold a slide up to the light? What does the exploration lead to? The images, the information, the content is revealed. What was once just a black (or in this case, probably white) square becomes a picture revealing something about a person or a place. Okay, now we're just talking magic tricks.

or press an ear against its hive. (4)

Intrepid explorers, perk up your ears. Collins' choice of the word "hive," gives this line some tension. Most of us would probably resist pressing our ear to a beehive. Do you think Collins wanted that sense of resistance? Does he want us to be just a teensy bit afraid of the poem?

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch. (5-8)

You've seen that mouse in the maze. There may be cheese at the end, but the mouse doesn't take a straight line to get there. The mouse has to wander, take a few wrong turns, and run into some dead ends before reaching the conclusion (well, except for those freaky, brain enhanced mice, but we're not counting them). After the mouse, it's our turn to do the exploring. We go from observer to participant. Now, put yourself in that (presumably) dark room. How do you feel? What are you thinking? Are you scared? What are you scared of? Go ahead, tell Shmoop. We won't judge. Much.

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