He could reach me through a poem about coffee and money else with one about a dark nightclub. In Billy Collins’ Sailing Alone Around the Room he takes every objects and makes them memorable, or in his own words “reader-friendly, hospitable, congenial, welcoming’ (Which, par. 28). While his main am is to ensure the reader enjoyment if they want it, deeper issues await them in between the lines. One of the poems that sticks out in my mind is Collins’ “Introduction to Poetry. ” This poem is an easy read that brings a smile to the readers face. While it is entertaining if one digs deeper there is a bigger issue waiting to be uncovered.
The surface of the poem is pretty simple. It brings to life a poem and what it is supposed to be doing versus what the reader tends to do with it. The statement behind this poem is that some works are just meant to be taken as is. He wants “to see them [the reader] to water-ski across the surface of a poem waving at the authors name on the short?’ (Collins 16). The picture he paints with that image reminds me Of a vacation. Normally one ones on vacation to escape all work, it is a time to just let the sun and day, or in this case, the poem, wash over you.
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He then switches to a vivid picture of torture and pain, words some people, myself included, would use to describe poetry. The reader beings “beating it with a hose to find out what it really means” (Collins 16). More often then not, we are so concerned about what the hidden message is within the lines of the poem, most of us miss the simple pleasure of the words floating over us, we miss the feeling. The image of the mouse and the light switch speak to the idea that we need to just feel our own way around the poem and find the interpretation that works for us o we reach the end of the puzzle or the light bulb turns on.
He starts the poem off with the senses. This may be to invoke the attention of the reader. Personally, think the reason behind the use of the senses is to get emotionally involved with the poem. A poem is a pleasure to the senses. The picture it creates, the smells, tastes, and sounds it causes the reader to recall all take place in the poem about poetry. Collins starts with sight (the slide) the sound (the hive). Then he moves back to sight (the mouse) and then feeling (the light switch). The water-skiing can depend on your memories. If you have been, maybe it recalls the smell of salt water.
Then we are left with the sense of the feeling of the torturing of the poem. The last image almost provokes the reader to feel sympathy for the poem, making them want to give reading it another try. The other poem that has vivid imagery and a powerful message for the advanced literature readers was Collins’ “Some Days. ” The poem takes the reader back to childhood with the picture of dolls and a huge dollhouse, where most children spent the majority of their free time. He then uses his imagination and puts himself in the dollhouse with the dolls. Again, something most people have done before.
It is something familiar. Underneath, the poem talks about being in control and being controlled. I thought that the poem sent an important subliminal message to the reader. While on the surface, it is obvious that Collins is talking about dolls and how the person they belong to controls their movements, on a less obvious level, the readers have to ask themselves who is controlling him by the end of the poem. Is he making a statement about society or our government? Maybe n a less depressing note he is talking about his writing. Some writers say their writing has a life of its own.
They do not know where it takes them until they are there. I hesitate to say that is what he means because Collins does not make it sound like something he views as a positive event or something he even enjoys. The line ‘Very funny, but how would you like it if you never knew from one day to the next if you were going to spend it striding around like a vivid god” (Collins 97) and the rest of the sentence makes it sound like he thinks it is a bad way to spend the day. The last line ‘With your little plastic face” (Collins 97) I feel has some significance.
The plastic faces on Barbie’s are fixed expressions. They do not change and you cannot read their faces because of this. Maybe Collins is trying to express the idea that when you are being controlled by something, even your emotions, you put up a facade to protect yourself from your surroundings. You cannot often tell if someone is depressed or have personal issues from how they kick. TO take that a Step further, the reason behind the secrecy of issues like that are society driven, which brings me back to the idea that he is making a statement about the role of society in our everyday lives.
Again, the unique thing about poetry is that is could mean different things to different people. The interpretations that I came up with are not right, wrong, or the only way to read the poems. With “Introduction to Poetry” ironically enough, someone may not interpret the poem at all but take it for what it is. Some people may even be led to believe that Collins was making a statement about how people are taught to read poetry, not so much how they read it. Rather he may be focusing on the teaching methods for teaching poetry.
The “we” in the poem may be the educational authority figures as a single body. With “Some Days”, some readers may interpret the poem as talking about a feeling of anonymity within society. He feels like he is just another plastic face with a fixed expression in a brown suite. The last two stanzas may even indicate to someone that while you might be anonymous sometimes it is a good thing “If you were going to spend it striding around like a vivid god, your shoulders in the clouds” (Collins 97).
Even the idea that he had to include the nine “Very Funny” (Collins 97) indicates that he finds some humor or even lightheartedness in the situation. When all is said and done, Billy Collins’ Sailing Alone Around the Room is a good book to pick up no matter what your preference is in reading material. Coming from someone who does not find any enjoyment in poetry at all, it was a nice change of pace. Collins can take an everyday object such as a pencil holder or a pencil sharpener and make it into a two page long issue on society. If you have any appreciation for all writing, his writing will intrigue you as it did me.