Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Introduction to poetry

So, I see that the Library of Congress has Billy Collins' "Introduction to Poetry" posted on their site. Good for them! Bruce Weber called him “the most popular poet in America” in no less etheric a place than the New York Times, so I guess it's kinda plebian to like Billy Collins these days, but still, I think maybe he nailed it.

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
and watch him probe his way out,

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

For some light amusement, check out the whole poem. (My good friend Mr. Google tells me that it's posted about 4,640 places on the web... but it's officially still Mr. Collins' property, and so I'll let you go somewhere else for the whole thing.)

Part of Library of Congress' "Poetry 180" project-- 180 poems on the web.


Johnny Cashless said...

Incredibly, I'd never read "Introduction to Poetry" before, nor (I must confess) have I read a whole book by Mr. Collins. Most of my experience with his work has come through internet video of him reading - and I've enjoyed everything I've seen so far.

Thanks for posting this, Geoff! To paraphrase something you said in response to another post, it's again nice to see the former Poet Laureate with his head out of Salinger's fish's mouth.

I might also mention that four video clips of Collins reading are available here in the Crisis Chronicles Online Library.

michael salinger said...

I give this poem to many teachers I meet.

Geoffrey A. Landis said...

Another of the Collins poems I like is "Forgetfulness," mostly because of the one haunting stanza

"...as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones."

Yes, I've often wondered where those memories go...


The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau