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The title of the poem clearly tells the subject which is to introduce what is a poem with the suggested tone of a professor, teacher, or a scholar who is about to educate a group of readers or students on how to approach a poem.
The poem looks like a sonnet but it is actually a free verse poem having sixteen lines and seven stanzas and has an irregular meter and no fixed rhyme, which are the characteristics of free verse (Bugeja). Even if it is not a sonnet with only fourteen lines and has a regular iambic pentameter, the poem Introduction to Poetry has some interesting line with iambic rhythm or cadence in them.
Rhythm and rhyme
The poem has no rhyme scheme and has an irregular meter although some lines use the iambic rhythm which is characterized by one unstressed followed by a stressed syllable. Some of these lines are the following: “or press an ear against its hive,” “r walk inside the poem's room,” and “to find out what it really means.”
Figures of Speech
The poet uses metaphor and simile that make the poem interesting to read. Some interesting metaphors used are the hive, mouse, body of water. The line like a color slide is a visible simile. There is also personification in the line having torture a confession out of it as if the poem has a body that can be beaten.
The use of these figures of speech makes this free verse interesting to read because of the surprising comparisons which any reader would not have expected. This then makes the poem worth spending time on and as interesting to read as, if not more interesting than, a structured poem such as a sonnet or a villanelle which has a structured form with fixed rhythm and meter.
The poem uses the voice of a teacher because of the references to instructions on the readers or suggestions on what to do with the poem, but the tone is not formal because of the play with words and usage of figurative language that makes reading the poem an enjoyable or pleasurable activity.
Analysis of Stanzas
The poem is broken down into six stanzas with a varying number of lines per stanza.
The first stanza talks in the hird person as the speaker talks about instructing a group of people to hold the poem to the light. This appeals to the visual sense, in other words asking the readers to take a look and look closely with the aid of light. Then it ends with a simile referring to a color slide as if telling that one might expect to find colorful and interesting images upon seeing the poem like what one sees on a projector screen when an actual color slide is inserted into it.
The second stanza is just one line with an iambic rhythm and this time it appeals to the auditory sense or sense of hearing when it asks the readers to listen closely if there is something to the poem that is interesting to hear, a certain music or noise perhaps, that is worth listening to. There is a movement in the sense that it follows the sense of sight being referred to in the first stanza.
The third stanza surprisingly introduces something new to ask the reader to do, that is, to drop a mouse into a poem. This looks like hyperbole because a poem is not something concrete like a basin, a pail, or a form of a container such that anything such as a mouse can be dropped. The mouse is actually symbolic of the reader who possesses the ability to search, roam, and investigate something that is new to him in order to get through the maze or the unfamiliarity of a place that it has not been into yet. To probe his way out, in the last line, means to get through the complexities of the poem by figuring things out, allowing the reader to use his observation, inference, and problem-solving skills until he gets the meaning or has at least an idea of it.
The fourth stanza offers the reader another instruction similar to the previous one of dropping a rat. This time instead of finding a way out, the speaker asks the reader to linger and explore the poem and enjoy his time until he sees inside the poem that which provides illumination. Perhaps instead of getting out of the poem in order to understand it, it is by actually staying that offers a better opportunity for understanding that is why it started with an alternative using the word or.
In the fifth stanza consisting of six lines, the speaker invites the reader to be more daring by means of waterskiing across the poem’s surface because it seems to be an enjoyable though risky or dangerous sports activity particularly when it is done with the act of waving at someone, in this case, at the author of the poet. It suggests that the reader communicates to the poet that he has been having fun reading, analyzing, exploring the poem like it is an object to have fun at like a beach or a swimming pool or any body of water. In the last three lines, however, the speaker takes a different direction after all the wonderful suggestions and instructions he gave to the readers in the previous stanzas. This time, he describes them as aggressors on the poem with the “tie the poem to a chair with rope” and “torture a confession out of it” lines. The use of a twist and irony in the tone create tension that makes a reader wait for what the speaker will say next.
In the last stanza, composed of two lines, the speaker reveals what he really thinks of the readers he was speaking to. He is actually suggesting that readers should not force themselves to find the meaning of the poem or do all sorts of possible things with the use of force to figure it out.
Diction and Theme
The poem Introduction to Poetry mirrors the poet Billy Collins in real life. Just like the speaker in the poem talking about his students or the readers, Billy Collins is a poet and an English teacher for many years and has conducted poetry workshops. He is fond of writing free verse poems that use ordinary language and interesting comparisons with the use of metaphors and similes just like what one finds in this poem. Because of this technique, word choice or diction does not involve the use of big or highfalutin words that will require a reader to constantly look up words in a dictionary. Moreover, it engages the reader and makes him finish reading the whole poem. The theme in this poem reflects Billy Collins observations and real-life experiences, to be specific, his frustrations with the failures of students in actually reading and enjoying a poem as well as writing one because they are accustomed to the application of tools or techniques in trying hard to figure out the meaning and message of a poem during the reading, and, at the same time, in conveying a message to intended readers during the writing of a poem which ends up as bad poems (Dore).
Bugeja, Michael. The Art And Craft Of Poetry. Writer's Digest Books, 2010.
Dore, Cara. "Introduction To Poetry By Billy Collins | Poet; Don't Know It". Sites.Psu.Edu, 2018, https://sites.psu.edu/caradorercl1314/2014/02/04/introduction-to-poetry-by- billy-collins/. Accessed 30 Oct 2018.
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