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The Language of English

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Introduction to Poetry
By Billy Collins


I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem libros1.jpg
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.


Billy Collins, “Introduction to Poetry” from The Apple that Astonished Paris. Copyright 1988, 1996 by Billy Collins.
Source: The Apple that Astonished Paris (1996) and **The Poetry Foundation**