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Former Poet Laureate Billy Collins reads his poem 'Introduction to Poetry'

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

T.S. Eliot wrote that April is the cruelest month. It also happens to be National Poetry Month. Many schoolchildren will be admonished to pay attention to poetry these next few weeks - read, analyze, dissect, discuss - which, of course, may not be a wise way to let someone discover the joy, delight and comfort of poems. I've wondered if teachers shouldn't say, whatever you do, don't read a poem. Don't even think about it. Don't anyone bring home a poem. Billy Collins, a former poet laureate of the United States who still teaches poetry in university classrooms, wrote a poem about trying to light a love of poetry in his "Introduction To Poetry."

BILLY COLLINS: (Reading) 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.

SIMON: Billy Collins and his "Introduction To Poetry."

(SOUNDBITE OF NATALIA LAFOURCADE SONG, "GAVOTA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.