Friday, November 2, 2012

And Miles to Go

Photo Credit: Valentina Ceccatelli

I used to hate poetry.

More accurately, I was too lazy for poetry. I didn't deserve poetry.

"It's not you, Haiku, it's me."

Do you remember that time in your life when you  were just too self-centered to really be useful to anyone? Maybe it started when you became a teenager and lasted until you graduated from school at...whatever age.

For me that period lasted, basically, from age 12 until 35. It was during this chunk of time that I just couldn't be there for poetry, you know?

So despite exhibiting signs of sheer poetic genius at an early age, and borrowing a book of  Shakespeare's sonnets from the library SO many times over the summer break between fifth and six grades that the librarian finally told me, "Just hold onto it until you're through" I didn't take much notice of poetry after age 11.

Except, of course, in high school where you really can't avoid things like essays and novellas and poetry. I remember an in-class exercise, with all the accompanying moaning and groaning, wherein we deconstructed "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening."

We'd dragged our desks into a circle and gone around the room talking about the contrasts in the poem and the real meaning behind the words.

All the while I was thinking, "Jesus and all the Saints, who cares about the contradictions? Why can't we just read the poem? It's about snow! And a horse! Leave it alone!"

As it turns out, my adolescent reaction was not unique. At least, that's what Billy Collins says.

The explanation of how I finally - and very recently - came around to poetry is a story for another day.

In the meantime, read this funny little poem.
Enjoy it and try not to read too much into it - sometimes rope is  just rope.

Introduction to Poetry, by Billy Collins

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.

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