“Music and Poetry” — Paul Raphael Montford [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I’ve been a fan of poet Billy Collins ever since I taught his poem “Creatures” to a sophomore English class and used a skeleton of “Litany” as a creative writing exercise.  I became an even bigger fan when I learned about the “Poetry 180” project he founded during his time as poet laureate.   Collins collected 180 poems, hoping that teachers across the country would read one poem, each day of the school year, to their students.  No deep analysis is allowed, just listening–just an enjoyment of the sounds and rhythms.

I’ve always wanted to read these poems in my classes but then, of course, I see something shiny and forget.

For National Poetry Month however, my creative writing students are reading a poem-a-day to the rest of the building over the morning announcements.  I shared Collins’ list with them, and we all decided that his poem, “An Introduction to Poetry” should be the poem to kick it all off.

I thought I would share it here as well:


Introduction to Poetry
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 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.