Understanding Poetry: Billy Collins, Introduction to Poetry

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Understanding Poetry: Billy Collins, Introduction to Poetry
Billy Collins uses dark rooms, oceans, hives, color slides and mouse mazes to describe his poem “Introduction to Poetry”, but also a way to analyze poetry in general. Growing up, students are advised by teachers how to analyze poetry. The speaker of Introduction to Poetry, Billy Collins, attempts to guide the readers by teaching them a unique and appropriate way to analyze poetry. The use of personification and imagery, by the author, gives the readers a new perspective to interpret and find the significance in poetry. In this particular poem, the speaker does not want the reader to listen to the teachers of the reader’s past, “tie the poem to a chair with rope and torture a confession out of it,”(Collins 11-12) but the readers should enjoy and relate to their own personal experiences to the poem and what the author is conveying. Collins believes poetry should be studied preciously, if not, they will lose their beauty.

Collins presents a unique speaker who changes tone throughout the poem reflecting his frustrations in how readers analyze poetry. As the poem progresses the reader senses a change in the authors tone, these changes can be detected through the speaker’s dialogue. The speaker tone begins as friendly, with the use of requests (I Ask) than gradually develops into a pleading inflection (But all they want to do). After Collins introduces the idea of asking the readers in polite manner it quickly changes in the next stanza to firm tone (I Say). This firm tone abruptly changes to bargaining, with the speaker presenting multiple options for the reader (Or). The bargaining with the speaker shortly turns into pleading (I Want). Finally in the final stanza, the speaker fails at persuading the readers to looking at poetry in a new light, and surrenders.

“I ask them to take a poem and hold it up to the light like a color slide.”(Collins 1-2) By first reading Introduction to Poetry, the reader...
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