Billy Collins was born in New York City in 1941. He is the author of numerous books of poetry, including “Introduction to Poetry” which was published in 1994. The poem is written in free verse with no set rhyme scheme or meter, which allows Collins to focus on the content of the poem rather than worrying about the form.
The title of the poem, “Introduction to Poetry”, suggests that the speaker is going to teach us something about poetry. And indeed, he does just that. The speaker begins by describing how a poet looks at a poem: “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.” In other words, he is asking his students to really examine a poem closely, to look at it from different angles and to listen to it carefully.
He then goes on to say that most people don’t do this with poetry. They “walk inside the poem’s room / and feels the walls for a light switch” but they never really see the poem for what it is. The speaker concludes by saying that, in order to understand poetry, we need to slow down and take our time with it. We need to let the poem wash over us and take us on its own journey.
Billy Collins’ “Introduction to Poetry” is a great example of how a poem can be both simple and complex at the same time. On the surface, it appears to be a straightforward poem about how to read poetry. But upon closer examination, we see that it is also a poem about the nature of poetry itself. It is both an instruction manual and a love letter to the art form. Whether you are a seasoned poet or a complete novice, this poem is sure to make you think about poetry in a whole new light.
The author Billy Collins employs figurative language in the poems Introduction to Poetry and Marginalia to guide readers through his point of view as he passes through a variety of tones throughout both compositions. Despite the fact that the two poems have several similarities, Collin’s tone in them creates two distinct works of writing. Collins uses two distinct tones to entice readers into his work and then connect with them personally via figurative language.
Billy Collins uses similes in both poems to help readers connect with the content on a personal level. In Introduction to Poetry, he writes “it is like / a cat playing with a ball of string” (Collins 2-3). This simile is significant because it not only shows how poetry can be playful, but also how there is more to it than just the surface level. The cat is playing with the string, but also keeping an eye on the bird. In the same way, when reading poetry we should not just look at the words on the page, but try to understand what they might be symbolizing.
Billy Collins also uses similes in Marginalia to show how books can provide solace in difficult times. He writes, “I want to step into the book and / live in its margins and breathe its paper” (Collins 4-5). This simile is significant because it shows how books can be a safe space for people when the world around them is feeling chaotic. When things are tough, books can provide an escape from reality. Billy Collins uses similes to help readers connect with his poems on a personal level and understand his perspective.
Billy Collins also uses diction to create different tones in his poems. In Introduction to Poetry, he uses words like “slipping” and “drowning” to describe the act of reading poetry (Collins 8). These words choice creates a tone of frustration because it makes it seem like poetry is something that is difficult to understand. Billy Collins uses diction in Marginalia to create a very different tone.
He writes, “I want to step into the book and / live in its margins and breathe its paper” (Collins 4-5). This choice of words creates a tone of longing and desire because it makes it seem like books are something that are just out of reach. Billy Collins uses diction to create different tones in his poems which helps readers connect with his perspective.
Billy Collins uses figurative language to help readers connect with his perspective. In Introduction to Poetry, he uses similes to show how poetry can be playful and how there is more to it than just the surface level. In Marginalia, he uses similes to show how books can provide solace in difficult times.
Billy Collins also uses diction to create different tones in his poems which helps readers connect with his perspective. Billy Collins’ use of figurative language creates two very different pieces of writing that are both enjoyable to read.
Collins uses a mild and pleasant tone in Introduction to Poetry to entice the reader into connecting with them on a personal level via figurative language. Collins states, “I ask them to hold a poem 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 prowl his way out, or walk inside the poem’s room and feel the walls for a light switch.” This is Billy Collins inviting his readers to experience poetry in new ways, to see it from different perspectives instead of just reciting it like they were taught in school. He wants them to really understand what the poet is trying to say and feel what they are feeling.
The rest of the poem Billy Collins talks about how we should listen to poems, “I say if you can find something that doesn’t make sense, then you found something important.” Billy Collins is telling us that we should not try to make sense of poetry, because a lot of the time there is no clear meaning. We should just experience it and feel it. And sometimes the things that don’t make sense are the most important parts.
Billy Collins ends the poem with “I say please don’t worry. It’s not as serious as a heart attack. This is just a momentary celebration of confusion. So let us not fear these moments of disruption: surprise, wonder, chaos. Let us embrace them.
For it is in these moments that we discover ourselves and perhaps even our purpose for being here.” Billy Collins is saying that we should not be afraid to be confused or to have moments of chaos in our lives. It is in these moments that we discover who we are and what we are meant to do with our lives.
Billy Collins’ poem Introduction to Poetry is a gentle and positive way of looking at how to approach and understand poetry. He uses figurative language to connect with his readers and invite them to see poetry in new ways. He also talks about how we should not be afraid to be confused or to have chaotic moments in our lives, because it is in these moments that we discover ourselves.
Collins begins the poem by declaring, “I’d bolt the door and pound some sense into your head” (Collins, 8). Collins uses figurative and violent language to deliver a strong message to the readers. He emphasizes the reader’s situation in order to keep them engaged. As the poem continues, Collins maintains a harsh tone that is considerably different from that of the poem’s Introduction.
Billy Collins wants the readers to experience what he’s saying, and not just read his words. Billy Collins tries to incorporate all five senses in order to immerse the reader into the poem. When he writes, “I want them to waterski across the surface of a poem waving at the author’s name on the shore” (Collins, 5), Billy is trying to tell the readers that they should be looking more in depth into poems.
He wants the readers to find new meanings in poems, and not just accept it for face value. In conclusion, Billy Collins wants the readers to use their imagination when reading poetry, and not just listen or read what is given to them.