The Friday Poem ‘Introduction to Poetry’ by Billy Collins

When I first started ‘workthoughts’ almost two years ago, I wanted to include a weekly poem or lyric. A colleague had once shared her secret of success@work, “I start my day reading a poem”.

I believe we all become a bit more creative when we discover the world through a poet’s eyes. Why don’t more of us include poetry in our work lives?

Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins shared his opinion in an interview to Ben Yakas of

“…the teaching of poetry is often brutally centered on interpretation. This gives teachers power because they kind of “know the answer.” And I think there’s a streak of sadism in it as well as they watch students get the wrong answer by guessing.”

In October, Mr. Collins published his 12th book of poetry, ‘The Rain in Portugal’. The Friday Poem this week is from his first collection, ‘The Apple That Astonished Paris’, and is for all of you whose early love of poetry was extinguished by an overzealous pursuit of analysis.

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.

Billy Collins from ‘The Apple That Astonished Paris’ 1988


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