1. What is the issue of the poem? Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins

1 Answer | Add Yours

lsumner's profile pic

lsumner | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted on

In the poem entitled "Introduction to Poetry," the author writes about the issue with poetry. The issue with the poem is that the reader has to learn how to get the meaning out of a poem. There is a method that will help the reader gain the most from a poem. There is a reading of a poem that will turn the light on to its meaning.

The author gives examples of how to get the best out of a poem. Hold it up to the light or press an ear against it to hear its meaning:

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.

The reader is encouraged to watch a mouse probe its way out of the poem and learn from the mouse:

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

There are ways to get to the meaning of a poem. There is a surface meaning that the reader can obtain:

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

Then there is a wrong way to get to the meaning of the poem. The author discourages the reader from torturing the poem to get to its meaning. The reader should never tie the poem to a chair with a rope. To do so would only torture "a confession out of it."

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

And never beat a poem "with a hose to find out what it really means."

The author compares the poem to a hive. He insists that the reader press a ear to hear its meaning. The poem is also compared to a room in which there is a light switch on the wall that will shed light on the poem's meaning. 

Overall, the author is saying there is more than one way to read a poem. By reading it with an open mind and ear, the reader will gain so much more from the poem. Also, there is a way to turn the light switch on to reveal a poem's hidden message. Most importantly, never read a poem by beating it to find a meaning. Just let the poem happen. It will speak for itself if the reader doesn't torture a confession out of it.  


We’ve answered 317,973 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question