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ARE YOU BEATING THE POEMS YOU READ WITH A HOSE?
POETRY 180
Billy Collins Poet Laureate of the United States

Billy Collins, the Poet Laureate of the United States, wants to make reading poetry an active part of our everyday lives, but he doesn't think reading poetry should be burdensome. Each day of the school year, high school students can read a new poem - 180 poems for each day of a school year. Below is the first of the 180 poems that can be found at the Poetry 180 site. It suggests how to read and how not to read a poem.

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.

Find 180 poems selected by Billy Collins, Poet Laureate, and learn about the Poetry 180 project at http://www.loc.gov/poetry/180/

A. Photo of Poet Laureate Billy Collins, by Rebecca D'Angelo, Public Affairs Office, Library of Congress

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