Teaching Poetry: Billy Collins

In class, we often have the popular debate: Do we analyze or simply enjoy a poem in the classroom?

Billy Collins says instead of asking students “What does this poem mean?” he asks “How does the poem perform?”

He says, “To answer that, students need to look at the beginning of the poem and the ending of the poem and chart the path the poem takes to meaning….Basically, I’m trying to shift attention from content to form, to see that form actually rescues content.”

(Billy Collins qtd. in “In an Age of Instant Communication, Poetry Invites People to Slow Down” by Trisha Collopy, The Council Chronicle, Nov. 2011, p.20-21)