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.
I want them to water-ski
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. Used by permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of the University of Arkansas Press, www.uapress.com.
Source: Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems, 1st ed. (Random House, 2001).