Study Guide

Introduction to Poetry Language and Communication

By Billy Collins

Language and Communication

I ask them to […] (1)

There is a lot of communication (or at least attempted communication) taking place in this poem. The very first line of the poem begins with, "I ask them to." The speaker (a teacher) is asking them (the students) to do something. Questions and directions… that's communication in a nutshell, right?

I say drop a mouse into a poem (5)

A stronger, more direct style of communication begins in Stanza 3. This sounds more like a command. I say do this. I say do that. Sound familiar?

I want them to […] (9)

Stanza 5 begins with "I want." Now the speaker is communicating wants and needs—what he desires. Here, as with "I say" and "I ask them," the communication phrase comes at the beginning of the line and stanza so it is sure to get a lot of attention. Needy speaker, anyone?