A Poem in Your Pocket: Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins

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Note: I occasionally accept review copies from the publisher. Posts written from review copies are labeled. All opinions are my own. Posts may contain affiliate links. I may receive compensation for any purchased items.

I owe Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness the credit for my new favorite poet: Billy Collins. After she shared some of his poems this month, I found a copy of Sailing Alone Around the Room. I have been enjoying reading his poetry this month. I’ll have more thoughts about that book later.

In the mean time, here is the poem I’m carrying in my pocket today. It perfectly captures my feelings of what I like about poetry. Poetry may not always be written so we know what it means, but we don’t need to interpret it too much: we should see a poem as an experience to interpret: like a mouse trying to find his way out of it, and like a color slide to look at. Poetry doesn’t have to be painful.

Note that I’ve only included the poem in part due to copyright. The full poem can be read here at the Poetry Foundation, where it is printed in full with permission from the publisher. Please read the entire poem. It’s great. Better yet, find a copy of Sailing Alone Around the Room. All of the poems are excellent: you do not need to “beat them with a hose” to understand any of them.

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  read the rest here

From Sailing Alone Around the Room, page 16.

Reviewed on April 30, 2009

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • Nice! I like it!

    I just found one by Marin Sorescu called “Perseverance” that I really love. It is printed in The Vintage Book of Contemporary World Poetry.


  • Fantastic poem! I like the message–just enjoy the poetry; it’s ok to think about it, but don’t try to overanalyze them too much! :-). I’ll have to look for more of Billy Collins’ works.

  • Lezlie, I don’t konw that author at all. Thanks for the heads-up. I’m going to find that poem.

    Kim, thank you!

    Valerie, the great thing is most of the poetry in this book has a similar feel — and yet there is depth to it if you want to search your way out of the maze!

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