Thursday, May 06, 2010


I've been working on my class for next fall, which in some ways, is really dumb.

Who knows if it will carry (it's a mediocre time slot)?
Who knows if the school will survive our continuing massive budget cutbacks?
Who knows if the new chair still thinks a lowly adjunct can manage a "full-timer's" course?
Who knows if I'll be hit by a truck in Canada and all this time will be wasted, when I should have been cleaning out closets, filing negatives and updating my personal history?

Kidding about that last one. Sort of.

But textbook orders were due last week and I've been swimming in the lists of stories, poems, essays, short fiction, reading chapters of (sometimes boring) textbooks that are piled high in the corner of my study. I'm trying to figure out my approach to this class, which frankly, will be from a writer's perspective, rather than a strict pedagogical aspect. And I'll bet you're impressed I knew such a big word, right?

So, in the spirit of figuring out what a poem means, here's Billy Collin's take on this. I'm leading out the Poetry section with this one. For Sure.

"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 water ski
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.


Judy said...

Like you, I worry about that clean house thing when we travel. I also love Billy Collins. Have you seen/read his anthologies of contemporary poetry?

I am amazed and impressed (and a tad bit shamed) at the time you are putting into this. I've been known to walk into the college bookstore, see who's using what, and make my selection right there. People like you do the work for people like me.

CSL said...

Billy Collins usually hits my sentiment right on the head. Thanks. G and I met him at the Art Institute after a reading he gave. I had him sign my book. He was very reticent. Guess he's a better poet than a PR person.

Ruth said...

I'm thinking that I will end this year with poetry. I found a book from WritersCorps that has really given me some food for thought.

I look at my house & planning for next year seems more do-able than cleaning the house.

Artax said...

That is a really great poem. I think this is how students learn calculus.