180 Poems

I want to tell you about a glorious web site called Poetry 180. It was created by former United States Poet Laureate Billy Collins, and it seeks to expose high school students to poetry by providing a poem a day for each day of the school year.

Since my house doesn’t have a “school year,” I don’t use the site in that way, but I love to browse the titles and just click on one that strikes my fancy. The first poem in the collection, written by Mr. Collins himself, is one of my all-time favorites. When I shared it with my daughter several years ago, she smiled with delight at the imagery. Here it is:

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 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.

from The Apple that Astonished Paris, 1996
University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, Ark.
Permissions information.

Copyright 1988 by Billy Collins.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced with permission.

*****

I encourage you to visit Poetry 180 and, while you’re there, whatever you do, don’t try to figure out what any of the poems mean! Just let them envelop you, as Mr. Collins suggests.

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4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    […] The Expanding Life tells us about a wonderful way to read a poem a day: 180 Poems […]

  2. 2

    KIm said,

    What a great resource! I’ve read that poem before, and it’s also one of my favorites. Thanks for sharing.

  3. 3

    Renae said,

    Thanks for sharing this resource. I like the idea of enjoying a poem a day. I have wanted to implement that for awhile, but haven’t taken the time to sort through my poetry books. I’ll be looking into this!

  4. 4

    Dana said,

    Love the poem you shared…and it does seem to describe all that is wrong with the way we frequently teach literature to children.


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