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The poem “Introduction to Poetry” written by Billy Collins is a very creative poem that aims to give an in-depth understanding of the true meaning of poetry. The poem is simple and easy to understand but with a hidden meaning. Billy Collins is well known for his unique style of writing poems and is respected for his creative poetry works. In the poem “Introduction to Poetry” he incorporates various styles and themes that he uses to deliver the message of the poem to his readers. The following essay describes the poem and takes an analytic view into the meaning of the poem.

Meaning and Analysis of “Introduction to Poetry”

The poem is simple and short and may easily be understood by readers. However, the meaning of the poem is a representation of the true understanding of poetry in general. Billy Collins is the persona in the poem. He has used personification with references to titles such as “I” (Billy Collins) and “them” (students). In the poem, he is trying to teach the students that poetry is an art that should be experienced and appreciated. From the writer’s perspective, many readers just scan poems without understanding their deep meaning. He emphasizes that poetry has a unique beauty; hence, readers should study poetry and be able to relate it to their own personal experiences rather than skimming through it.

Collins adopts the heavy use of metaphors throughout his poem, for example, dark rooms, hives, lake and color slides. In the first stanza, the writer compares the poem to a “color slide”. The use of this imagery states that readers have to squint or use projectors to clearly see the meaning of the poem. It also tells that as a color slide has multiple colors, readers can only get the meaning of the poem after multiple readings. 

In the second stanza of the poem, the writer compares the poem to a “hive”. He uses this image to explain that it is not easy to understand the poem. However, as a beehive faces many challenges and risks, one can overcome these difficulties and get the underlying meaning of the poem.

In his third and fourth stanza, the poet compares his poem to a dark room. He uses this to describe people’s fear of darkness. The darkness represents uncertainties and insecurities. He attempts to explain how people fear what they do not know but encourages the readers not to be afraid of uncertainties that are part of the learning process. The fifth stanza is an encouragement to the readers that the process of understanding a poem is fun and has endless opportunities to interpret. This is presumed when the writer compares the poem to a “lake” and the readers are “water skiing” and enjoying the poetry.

In contrast, the last two stanzas take a different tone and a sharp reflection of the writer’s frustration on how the readers’ interpret the poetry. He now compares the poem to a “prisoner” tied around a chair and beaten up with a hose to uncover the truth. This reflects the readers’ minds and how they are quickly skimming through a poem without even understanding what it is about. The words of the writer “and torture a confession out of it” describe the incorrect attitude of readers and students towards the poetry. Collins aims at making readers and students understand that poetry should be read, analyzed and interpreted correctly if one is focused and patient.


The title “Introduction to Poetry” describes the basics of poetry, a reflection of where it starts. The writer of the poem seeks to provide the guidelines of analyzing, interpreting and understanding poetry. The poem is written in a teacher–student setting where the teacher is trying to teach the students a different and new way of reading and understanding poetry. In addition, the poem provides essential life values like appreciation and patience not only in poetry, but also in other daily activities. It implies that people should learn to take time when doing things rather than rushing through. The poem is a true reflection of our lives while being a unique work of poetry.

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