Billy Collins – Introduction to Poetry and Metaphors, Imagery, and Irony

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

Irony in “Introduction to Poetry”

In Billy Collin’s poem “Introduction to poetry”, the speaker is assuming the role of a teacher who’s tasked with teaching poetry to unwilling students. Collins attempts to convince the audience that poetry is not such a difficult part of literature to understand, and reminds them of why it exists in the first place: for entertainment and relaxation. Collins uses metaphors and imagery throughout the poem, and adds irony to reinforce the ideal that poems shouldn’t be read only to “decode” them.

Firstly, it’s important to note what perspective Collins uses throughout the poem. The reader assumes the speaker is a teacher in school. In addition, the speaker doesn’t actually address the reader, but rather his fictitious students in class. The poem is a dialogue between teacher and students, for the purpose of teaching the reader. In this way, Collins is able to communicate his ideas with the reader without giving them explicit instructions.

However, Collins also gives many examples through the speaker using metaphors. He compares poetry to several different things throughout the length of the poem, the first of which the speaker asks the students to “hold it up to the light like a color slide” (Collins, 1988, line 3). Here, “it” refers to the poem in question. He’s encouraging readers to look for it’s true value, and appreciate the little things that might not be seen at face value. He continues, “press an ear against its hive” (Collins, 1988, line 4). In this way, Collins is acknowledging the difficulty of poetry for some students, comparing it to a beehive, with the danger of being stung. This is a metaphor for any student afraid to take a guess in fear that their answer is wrong. But at the same time, the speaker encourages his students to take that risk anyways, and explains the rewards further in the poem: “I want them to water-ski across the surface of a poem” (Collins, 1988, line 10). Here, the speaker gets to his point about what poetry ought to be. Water-skiing is a way to relax out on the lake on a nice summer day for a leisurely activity. Water-skiing is gliding across the top of the surface, and that’s exactly what Collins wants readers to do with poetry. He wants them to enjoy it at it’s face value for leisure.

Yet, the speaker continues with what his students are not supposed to do, too. He ends the poem with, “They begin beating it with a hose to find out what it really means” (Collins, 1988, line 16). This is the speaker advising students they shouldn’t read and decipher poetry just because it’s been assigned. They shouldn’t read it with the intent of finding out what it means so they can write an essay on it, but actually read the poem for enjoyment and to appreciate its value, and then the deeper truths will come naturally. This is what’s ironic about Collins’ poem. His whole goal is to convince the reader not to read just to decipher the meaning, but that’s exactly what’s required in analyzing “Introduction to Poetry.”

All in all, Collins speaks through a teacher and addresses students of poetry, trying to put them on the correct path. He feels poetry is to be enjoyed and not scrutinized, and relays this to the reader through metaphors and imagery. But at the same time, ironically delivers this meaning in a hypocritical way.

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