"Introduction to Poetry" by Billy Collins

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The poem gives advice on how to understand and interpret it, instead of expecting a literal meaning. The author feels disdain for the readers for being ignorant and close-minded when looking at poems. He shows the readers how to enjoy the poem instead of letting it become a frustrating and painful experience. Many believe that there can only be one meaning to a poem, but it depends on who is reading it. There are multiple points of view to a poem that can be interpreted in many ways.

The speaker asks the readers to hold the poem against the light as if it were a color slide. Here he is asking them to look at it closely and listen to what the poem has to say. When the author says to “…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,” it is a symbol for having the options of just reading the poem or get “inside” the author’s mind. He then goes on to say how oblivious they are by anticipating an obvious answer. By “torturing” the poem, they demand a straightforward response or meaning.

The speaker gives different tactics in helping to understand the poem, but all the subjects of the poem want is an evident message or explanation. The entire poem is a metaphor for how we shouldn’t expect simple, clear answers in the world, instead, we should “water-ski on the surface” and enjoy life. The frustration from poem reading or in just general is caused by a close mind, or inside-the-box thinking. Take on the challenges that come your way—experience life, and not sit on the sidelines to watch.
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