The poet Billy Collins sits in a shady porch overlooking a lake. He’s smiling and holding a stakc of his books. He’s dressed casually, wearing sunglasses and beaded folk-art jewelry.

Source: Billy Collins, photo by Suzannah Gilman,
Wikimedia Commons

For the last activity, you will read a poem and then identify and explain the similes and metaphors. The poem, “Introduction to Poetry,” is by Billy Collins. To help you read and understand the figurative language, you might consider sketching each stanza. We’ve drawn the first stanza as an example. After you have looked at our drawing, click the link below to read the poem.

Click here to see our sketch of the first stanza.
A drawing of a hard holding up a poem to a light like a color slide

Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins

Now that you’re finished reading, answer the following questions about the poem:

  1. In the simile of the first stanza, Collins compares the poem to—

  2. a. a color slide.

    b. a window.
    Try again.

    c. the morning.
    Try again.

  3. What does Collins mean by the metaphor “walk inside the poem’s room and feel the walls for the light switch”?

  4. a. That the poem is dangerously bad, like a dark alley
    Try again.

    b. That the best poems have to do with electrical lighting
    Try again.

    c. That he wants the readers to feel around and discover the poem for themselves

  5. What is Collins comparing the reader to when he writes “But all they want to do is tie the poem to a chair with a rope and torture a confession out if it”?

  6. a. A dancer in a ballroom
    Try again.

    b. Someone who has to have an answer at any cost

    c. Household furniture and appliances
    Try again.

  7. take notes icon Using your notes, answer the question below. When you are finished, check your understanding to see a possible response.

    Why do you think Collins portrays readers as vicious in their attempts to understand poetry?

  8. Check Your Understanding

    Sample Response:

    Sometimes readers work so hard to squeeze meaning out of poetry that they don’t actually experience the language and music of the poem. Collins is also acknowledging that sometimes readers feel like they have to work very hard to understand a poem, sometimes to the point that they are torturing it!