first poem

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first poem

Post  Ms.B on Fri Apr 17, 2009 4:40 pm

Ok, so this quarter we do it differently:

every Monday I post a poem. By Wednesday, you must post a comment about the poem (not something like "I think it's cool.") By Friday you must post a SECOND comment on someone else's comment. DIsagree with them, strengthen their interpretation, see it in a different light.

I will start easy on you! Laughing The first poem is by a poet who hates the fact that a poem has to be analyzed. Oh, the irony! While I really do feel your pain as you look for things, please remember that paradoxically, I am trying to expose you to poetry in the hopes that you will find a poet or a type of poetry that you enjoy or identify with. Remember, poetry is about expressing oneself and another self "gets" it.

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the first poem is: "Introduction to Poetry"

Post  Ms.B on Fri Apr 17, 2009 4:41 pm

Introduction to Poetry
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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response leitz

Post  leitz on Wed Apr 22, 2009 3:31 pm

When Billy Collins states that one should hold the poem "up to the light" he may mean that poems should be like slides, being easy to interpret like shining a light to illuminate slides, showing a docile and soft approach towards poetry, contrasting with the angry and frustrated tone towards the end, in reference to the obscure and violent manner poets and people try interpret and twist poetry.

I

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Re: first poem

Post  Bibi on Wed Apr 22, 2009 6:39 pm

Additionally, by mentioning that one should "hold it up to the light," and if we see this as a representation of knowledge and vision, the author is also suggesting that he/she should try to comprehend and visualize the poem through the use of their individual discernment and understanding. Not to mention that, as Leitz stated, “like a color slide” means to see through, fully visualize the author’s intent or the central theme of the piece.

Then the speaker goes on suggesting that we should “press an ear against the hive,” so it’s no longer in regards to the optic aspects, but yet, the sound / musicality / flow that the poem contains, enhanced by stressing figurative elements such as alliteration, repetition and onomatopoeia.

To say that a mouse would have to “probe his way out” is to underline the fact that a poem is something rather complicated, difficult like a labyrinth, but there are numerous ways one could attempt in order to reach the overall message. To some extent, the author might be contradicting his beliefs given that to probe means to examine, and question, or so to speak, analyze… so the rat would have to interpret in order to find a path to get out? Personally, I don’t quite agree with the idea that one should watch a mouse find his way out of a poem, because it seems like the creature (could be an allusion to mankind) wouldn’t want to stay inside the poem – and that just seems wrong.

Regardless, I just love the image in the 5th stanza when it is highlighted that the surface of a poem is like a water body, and we should “waterski” across it and wave the “author’s name on the shore” – this is truly a beautiful picture! The speaker is now contrasting the meaning / significance of a poem with the physical aspects of waves, as if it were drifting with words… plus, though it’s water, it’s still something intangible, not as solid to the point one would be able to tie it “to a chair with rope” (next stanza). In spite of this comparison, one could also verify that a poem is being associated with a body of water, which is blue, so it’s as if it’s a part of our imagination, or it carries our deepest sentiments and thoughts found in unreal plains or that it could simply be a fantastical illusion. Also, to say that the readers should “waterski” through a poem makes it seem like something involving adrenaline, energy, but at the same it should be regarded as a pleasant and amusing activity and an adventurous experience, not a painful one. The fact that the author’s name is on the shore emphasizes that though there is a connection between these two, it’s not a part of the text, and hence, it shouldn’t determine, essentially, the idea but yet it could be used as a frame of reference.

(I feel like I wrote too much… so I will stop for now…)
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Re: first poem

Post  Oscar on Wed Apr 22, 2009 8:59 pm

The title "Introduction to poetry" points out that Billy Collins is exposing in this poem his personal opinion on how any poem should be read and appreciated.

Billy Collins supports sensorial interpretation of the reader toward a given poem.
To make his point, he uses several images that highlight the significance of the body senses' role to catch the poem's essence as a way to interpret it.

For instance, according to the poet, a poem should be "hold [...] to the light / Like a color slide", comparing the poem to a picture: such simile involves the sense of sight's role in a poem interpretation.

Billy Collins also advices the reader to "press an ear against its hive", as if the message contained in a poem should be listened rather than conventionally read: this image also supports the sensorial way of interpreting a poem, here using sense of hearing.

Another alternative of reading a poem according to the poet would be to "feel the [poem's] walls", corroborating the sensorial images by relating the content of a poem, its "walls", with the reader's sense of touch to apprehend a poem.

Finally, I would like to conclude that this sensorial way to interpret a poem, advocated by Billy Collins, is in fact supporting the subconscious and intuitive reading of a poem, to "feel it", in opposition to over-analyzing it. And I do agree with this way to read a poem.
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Re: first poem

Post  rapoch on Thu Apr 23, 2009 12:27 am

Besides what has been said, I'd like to point out:

The poem "Introduction to Poetry" tries to point out that poetry is a form of writing that should be enjoyed, lived and experienced, rather than simply analyzed.

Firstly, one can notice that the work is composed of an uncomplicated vocabulary. Because of such simple word choice, Collins criticizes the type of poetry which possess verbose and complexity instead of conciseness and clearness. Lines such as "and hold it up to the light" possess words that can be understood by almost any elementary student. Unlike a complex poem, Collins' work attempts to lure readers by making them easily understand his message, in place of making the poem an impenetrable force which divides the reader from the value of the work.

A metaphor | imagery which did fascinate me was "or press an ear against its hive"(maybe fascinate is too strong of a word). Firstly, the verb press indicates the effort placed in hearing. By pressing your ear against a solid material such as a hive, the sound waves travel faster and clearer thus, causing the student to "hear" the sound of the poem. Because a metaphor is established between the poem and a bee hive, one could further compare the words of the poem to the bees inside the hive. Just like the words work together in order to provide a message to the reader, the bees are continuously working to make their honey. Honey, because it connotatively signifies sweet and pleasure, represents the understanding of the poem, for when it is grasped by the reader, feelings of pleasure and excitement emerge just like all of the other metaphors and imageries reveal.

After having read the poem, I have been seriously thinking about doing something with it that doesn't involve interpreting, something similar to what my fellow Billy Collins suggests, but still much less creative: simply print it out, make a paper airplane out of it, and send it flying down the corridor hoping that it never lands into our reality where "not interpreting" is not an option.
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Re: first poem

Post  Mai on Thu Apr 23, 2009 6:55 pm

We were always told that poems are not hard to understand, that everything we should know about them is right in front of us. To me, this was Billy Collins' main message when writing "Introduction to Poetry". When saying that instead of "[torturing] a confession out of [the poem]", people should "hold it up to the light" and "watch [a mouse] probe his way out" of it, he means that when trying to understand a poem, it should not be over-analyzed, since the answers will reveal themselves gradually, instead of having to dig deep into the poem and ignore its essence.

Another important point is that this painless procedure pointed out by the author, the one in which the poem auto-defines itself, is the "introduction to poetry", being that one of the basic principles while reading a poem and trying to identify its essential characteristics.
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Re: first poem

Post  Luisa on Thu Apr 23, 2009 6:55 pm

Through the use of figurative language, Billy Collins is able to convey the idea that poetry should be dealt with as something fluid and natural, a true expression of one's sentiment. I particularly believe that the best representation of this relationship between reader and poem is when the author claims that one should "walk inside the poem's room and feel the walls for a light switch." As I read it, I was amazed with Collins' success in regards to expressing how one should be able to identify him/herself with the poem since he uses, as previously said by Raphael, simple language, as it can be noticed in this quote. Though using simple words, the idea of touching walls around in order to find the light switch can be perfectly paralleled to that of identifying a poem's central idea and essence. Furthermore, the moment the person inside the room has touched the walls enough to be able to turn on the light can also be regarded as the moment the reader is able to clearly see the author’s intent which makes perfect sense since with the light, the person is able to see his/her surroundings as the reader is able to fully comprehend a poem.

Regarding what Bibi said about the stanza where Collins says “drop a mouse into a poem and watch him probe his way out”, I agree with her, to some extent, in the sense that Collins was contradictory. Nevertheless, I don’t think it’s because of the mouse’s need to “analyze” the poem in order to get out of it but rather Collins attitude of dropping a mouse somewhere he considers of great value, or, poetry. In other words, it seems paradoxical that on the last stanza he condemns people’s attitude of tying a poem to a chair when he, at the same time, endorses the idea of “dropping” a rat into a poem, indicating the object’s unwillingness to read and thus, interpret the poem. Hence, the rat would be, as put by Collins himself, tortured in order to have a confession from it.

Though this contradiction had to be noted, Collins’ ability to show his passion and voluntary attachment towards poetry must also be taken into consideration. The comparisons, as previously stated by all of you, are truly beautiful as is his way of showing how people who are forced to interpret a poem can end up distorting its core idea at the moment one either over-analyzes or distorts the poem’s essence in order for him/her to “make a point”.
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Re: first poem

Post  Milla on Thu Apr 23, 2009 8:35 pm

The speaker demonstrates an opposition to analyzing a poem with an aggressive approach, forcing an easy but weak interpretation. The imageries of “beating [a poem] with a hose” and to “torture a confession out of [a poem]” suggest violent, therefore irrational ways to understand the work. What the speaker supports, is a deep and intimate analysis where the reader feels and sees the poem’s purpose. He uses light and soft imageries, like seeing through a color slide, hearing the buzz of bees, and waterskiing, to describe what he pledges readers to do when interpreting a poem, which contrasts with the violent imageries of the last stanzas. I loved when the speaker asks to “walk inside the poem’s room and feel the walls for a light switch”, which suggests readers to feel the texture, the solidness of the poem, so that when the light switch illuminates it, the reader will be able to see and thus, understand it.
To me, the author does not neglect the interpretation of poetry in general, but disagrees with the irrational interpretations that lack thought and deepness, he acutally defends and motivates the thoughtful analysis that explores the meaning of a poem.
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URGENT OFF THE SUBJECT MESSAGE

Post  Ms.B on Sat Apr 25, 2009 3:23 pm

There were six people that expressed an interest in taking the TOEFL exam on May 30. Four of those people have already registered. I just checked and there are already other people signed up as well. There are 4 spots left, so anyone who was considering taking the exam needs to sign up quickly to guarantee a spot!! Ms.B

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regarding length of posting...

Post  Ms.B on Sat Apr 25, 2009 3:30 pm

Feel free to post as much as you want and as many times as you want. Do not feel that it is an obligation to write the equivalent of a page. I am perfectly happy with a "wow" post that is only 4 lines long. If you need to explain yourself in a meter-long post, no problem. This is 4th quarter. Relax! Very Happy You guys have worked your butts off. I want insights, but do not require length.

One other thing: as people post, I want you to point out something DIFFERENT from everyone else. Feel free to reiterate what has already been said, but the idea is that you find something else to "show" people. See that if you post before others, it's "easier" because you don't have to look for something no one else said. Cool

Enjoy your weekend! I am going to bed!!!! I am EXHAUSTED! Congrats to everyone who helped with the TOTAL SUCESS of the Benefit dinner!!!

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Re: first poem

Post  Bibi on Sat Apr 25, 2009 11:10 pm

I was thinking about the "beat with a hose" line, why would Collins choose such an uncommon weapon, not to mention useless, in order to express how all people want to do is forcefully extract a "confession" from a poem... Well, if we look at the "waterski" stanza, and associate the meaning of a piece with something that's floating, and running like water (that is also aqueous, transparent, and impalpable), then as readers, we could note that now the speaker is suggesting that to strike a poem with a "hose" is to try to use methods that would seem appropriate but they're not quite. Even more, if we take that there is no water coming out, then it's as if through violent means one couldn't grasp the true message, and even if there was, the quantity in the previous lines (to a point one could ski through) is far greater than of that being gushed by a "hose." Plus, the fact that the water from a river bank or the ocean naturally exist, while the one from such object is almost superficial, it's manually forced to come out (and people take control over it, deciding upon its directions). Last but not least, there is also the theory that if water is blue, hence, it's a symbolf for imagination, so by this Collins means that just when someone surrounded by this fantastical experience (like the one waterskiing), is when they honestly comprehend the poem's idea -- and with a hose, even if it's pouring water, you're still, in fact enclosed by reality. This would be something I could disagree with the author, because when someone is waterskiing "on the surface" it's different then if he/she was, say, swimming -- the contact is not as close / intimate / complete.


It's 1:08 a.m., I slept all day... so pardon me if this doesn't make any sense...
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Re: first poem

Post  Oscar on Sun Apr 26, 2009 8:33 pm

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.
[Bibi] when someone is waterskiing "on the surface" it's different then if he/she was, say, swimming -- the contact is not as close / intimate / complete.
Although the way you (Bibi) define the action of waterskying as a superficial "contact" with the poem does make sense, it seems to me that the action of waterskying is rather a mean to reach the "shore" where is the poet himself.

According to Collins, the reader should "wave at the author's name on the shore", as waterskying on the surface of the poem; should we infer from this image that a poem's purpose is to create a bridge between the reader and the poet? I prefer this interpretation, since I don't believe the action of waterskying is a neglected relationship between the reader and the poem, but rather a mean to reach the poet's "shore", his beliefs and ideals.
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about the "hose"

Post  Ms.B on Mon Apr 27, 2009 6:38 am

Since Bibi mentioned the "uncommon toture" (I forget her exact words, but I know she used the word "uncommon", let me just clarify: one method to extract information from people is in fact to beat them with a hose. (Since my torture methodology is not so great, I THINK that it is because it hurts, but doesn't break bones. When you don't want too much blood or messiness, it's a good torture to use.)

Please do not comment on what I just said -- I think that would be OVERANALYZING the poem. I DO think that Bibi's comments about water ski and a water hose are valid.

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Re: first poem

Post  ana on Tue Apr 28, 2009 2:21 pm

While the speaker criticizes how many try to "torture the meaning out of a poem", what I think is interesting is that he never denies that it is not simple to find this meaning. In fact, the speaker even compares the poem to a maze in some degree, I believe, when it is stated "I say drop a mouse into a poem/ and watch him probe his way out". This conveys the idea that when we read a poem it may even seem like we were dropped into it, clueless. What I see in this passage is actually that the mouse would be the reader (how unfortunate) while the walls or obstacles it has to go through to find its way out are the words and divisions of the poem. Therefore, like a mouse dropped into the middle of the maze, we must "probe" our way out, by exploring the words, the images and feelings they create--by exploring different paths and interpretations until we find the meaning, which is "the way out".
However, the speaker does not portray the interpretation of a poem as an arduous task. Its not an easy one, however, if one does not insist in trying to see the obvious answer when none is portrayed and speak the words we so often utter in honors english when the poem frustrates us : "Why can't he just say whatever it is he wants to without making our lives hard?" We say it precisely because we 'torture" the poem instead of using our senses, and allowing ourselves to be dropped into that maze or dark room and explore until we find a way out. Thus, the speaker shows that analyzing a poem does not have to be an arduous task, but it can be rather pleasurable if one has the right approach: an approach as lyrical as the poem itself. (if that makes any sense)
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Re: first poem

Post  ana on Tue Apr 28, 2009 2:37 pm

Staying on my response to the "mouse" "dropped" into the poem, I disagree with Bibi and with Luisa. For Bibi's comment, I just see that we viewed the whole "getting out of the poem" thing differently. What I believe it means is that the mouse, which I believe we agree symbolizes mankind, is trying to get out, is that it is trying to find a meaning. As I previously said, he "probes" or "analyses" its way out because the very walls of the maze are the words and images of the poem. So the mouse is not trying to get away from the poem, but rather to understand it through the careful analysis of its various aspects.
Concerning what Luisa said, since its on the same topic, I do agree that the image actually refers to the value of poetry. However, it is not contradictory to the end that the mouse is "dropped" into the poem. Think about it. Being "dropped into a maze" may be negative for a mouse. but we must keep in mind what the mouse represents. What I think is that, when one reads a poem, he/she is inevitably dropped into the poem, needing for one reason or another to find sense in it. It has nothing to do with torture, with trying to force an answer out of a poem like the end suggests but rather with carefully finding your own "way out"-- through interpretation discovering a meaning that makes sense to you. The "probing" through the poem is very different from "beating an answer out of it".
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RE: First Poem

Post  juracy on Tue Apr 28, 2009 2:49 pm

I love the way Billy Collins says that people don't actually read, properly said, the poem. They just analyze it, they "tie it to a chair with a rope and torture a confession out of it", so people just take a look at it for answers. They don't read properly, the way a poem is meant to be read.

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RE: First Poem

Post  juracy on Tue Apr 28, 2009 2:56 pm

Billy Collins put in his poem something that tends to happen to most people who many times analyze poems. When you analyze the poem you tend to analise, analise and end up by doing some kind of over analysis. You end up creating a whole meaning to the poem that is not actually its real meaning. When actually the meaning is clear, easy and explicit. So we should NOT analyse poems!!! Evil or Very Mad

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Re: first poem

Post  Bia on Tue Apr 28, 2009 6:01 pm

Captivatingly, Billy Collins uses the contrast between aggressive and constructive actions to guide the reader into the correct attitude- that should be taken when reading a poem. What calls attention is how Collins proposes that while reading one should “let things happen” enter into a dark room and “feel the walls for the light” or “waterski through the poem’s surface.” In other words, the understanding of the poem will come along if the reader is enjoying and encompassing a connection with the poem. Readers, who focus mainly on the analysis of details, metric and sentence structure, fail to comprehend the poem as a whole- losing the grip of fantasy and true inner expression. On the other hand what must be clearly understood while reading the poem (and ironically analyzing it) is that Collins criticizes the ones only focus on “beating it with a hose to find out what it really means” but not the ones who manage to glide through the poem, and meanwhile analyze it.

Even though I had a different analysis than Ana, I do understand, and to an extent agree with her post. What is interesting is that, regarding that we are all different, when having to connect and feel the poem, each of us will do so in distinct ways. Our senses react in different moments and therefore having two or more ways of interpretation is “ok”. What Collin criticizes is the over-analysis and not the different connections people might have. So, like me, one can understand the poem in one way- but at the same time recognize there are other coherent analyses.
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response to post

Post  leitz on Tue Apr 28, 2009 6:51 pm

I agree with Bia that when one forces the mind in the attempt to interpret the poem, with the sole purpose of interpreting, he or she cannot fully understand the poem, for only wneh one achieves a connection or understands the emotions of the poem is it possible to understand the meaning. One must simply let instincts guide the mind in comprehension, permiting the poem to flow, just like entering a dark room and "feeling for the lights". Also I agree with Juracy that poems should not be analyzed as it is quite possible the the true goal and meaning if the poem as well as its beauy could easily be corrupted and lost.

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Re: first poem

Post  rapoch on Tue Apr 28, 2009 8:40 pm

After having read Ana's reply, I would like to express that I agree with most of her comments.

I too believe that the speaker classifies a poem as a task that requires some thought from the reader, but is in no way painful and exhausting if one takes the correct approach. Through the excerpt which reads "I say drop a mouse into a poem", many readers might associate the poem to a labyrinth in a much literal way, which would connotatively suggest that the poem possesses an extremely puzzling and tangling atmosphere capable of trapping the reader for quite a while before he reaches the exit, or in this case, comprehension.

Instead, when one examines the following line "and watch him probe his way out", it is as if the speaker is asserting that if you (reader) take your time to watch the mouse (your intellectual capability) for a while, it will find the exit. The verb "probe" denotatively signifies "to search into or examine thoroughly" and thus, in no way suggest that the mouse will have any major obstacles impeding it from reaching his way out. Basically, the imagery trying to be expressed is that if a mouse stops and examines his surroundings completely, he will most certainly exit it without having to be trapped for hours suffering from impatience, situation experienced by many "poem-analyzers" (it's a made up word, but it is pretty suggestive).
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Introduction to Poetry

Post  Teixeira on Fri May 01, 2009 11:20 am

What calls my attention in this poem, (that has not been commented on by several people) is the title itself. The fact that Billy Collins entitles his poem as "introduction to Poetry" reveals his belief of what real poetry, or real interpretaton of poetry, should be. It is as if he says that whoever tries to analize a poem by "tying it up to a chair and forcing a confession out of it", which means, trying to take out many proofs and arguments for whatever analysis he/she wnats to present is the wrong way to read a poem. Instead, we should try to feel what the poet is expressing, expressed by him with the image of "waterskying through the poems surface". He proposes a smooth interpretation for poetry, and not the analytical and somehow robotized (does this exist?) analysis, that looks for the significance of each word and expression of the poem (ie. green=hope). Instead, we should try to appreciate a poem and understand the true feeling behind it. So Ms.B, according to Billy Collins, what you force us to do every week is wrong. xD

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Response to Oscar

Post  Teixeira on Fri May 01, 2009 12:41 pm

I believe that Oscar's analysis regarding the "sensorial interpretation" of the poem is somehow over analytical. I believe that the imagery regarding the body's senses, such as "holding to the light/ like a color slide" or "pressing an ear against its hive" are not there in order to demonstrate the "significance of the body senses' role to cacth the poem's essence", but rather a comparison he makes between the way we aknowledge what is presented to us through our senses and the way we interpret a poem. We do not over analyze what we see or hear. What I believe Billy Collins could be saying (in fact I also think this could be an over-analysis) is that we should interpret a poem the same way we interpret what we see and hear. We should rather "feel" it. So, it is not as if the body's senses are important to understand the poem, but how we should feel the poem the same way we feel the reality through our senses.
Even though I think it is somehow of an over-analysis, it was an interesting point Oscar. xD

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Re: first poem

Post  Milla on Fri May 01, 2009 3:45 pm

I disagree with Juracy when he says that the speaker is against analyzing poems, he is actually motivating the reader to analyze them, careful and patiently interpreting the meaning of the work. By asking to look through a poem like a "color slide", to "press an ear" and listen to it, or to "waterski across the surface of the poem", the speaker is saying that a poem should be felt, it should be looked in depth, not to look at the words, but beyond what is seen, like a color slide you have to put against the light. What the author goes against is the person who forces an interpretation "torturing" a poem, which will generate an over-analyzation, losing the message the author is intending to give.
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this discussion is now closed!

Post  Ms.B on Sat May 02, 2009 5:46 am

Hello. I agree with most of what everyone says. I agree that Collins is against saying "ok, let's pick this poem apart in analysis until we lose the FEELING in it", but we can't forget that Collins DOES want us to think about the poem. He is suggesting that it resonate in our very being. That means a thoughtful reading, perhaps more than one reading. It suggests savoring the language, questioning the language. If we are to hear the "beehive" going on in the poem, we must put our proverbial ear against the poem. If we are "waterskiing" on the poem, we are FEELING the rush of excitement, of emotion that it contains. We are whisked away by the power of the poem (have you ever been waterskiing? Feel the wind and your utter lack of control over where you go. All you can do is try to stay on your feet and not let go of the rope so that you can continue the experience).

PLEASE NOTE THAT YOU MUST POST THE FIRST RESPONSE BY WEDNESDAY AND THE SECOND BY FRIDAY AT 2:30. I WILL STOP READING THE RESPONSES AT THIS TIME.

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