Billy Collins

From The Companionship of a Poem:

“I came to realize that to study poetry was to replicate the way we learn and think. When we read a poem, we enter the consciousness of another. It requires that we loosen some of our fixed notions in order to accommodate another point of view – which is a model of the kind of intellectual openness and conceptual sympathy that a liberal education seeks to encourage. To follow the connections in a metaphor is to make a mental leap, to exercise an imaginative agility, even to open a new synapse as two disparate things are linked.

“Further, to see how poetry fits language into the confines of form is to experience the packaging of knowledge, the need for information to be shaped and contoured to be intelligible. It is to understand that form is a way of thinking, an angle of approach.

“[O]ne of the most basic appeals of poetry is its ability to slow us down. To begin reading a poem is to feel a resistance in the poem’s language and its distinct meter, its compression of meaning, and its insistence on conveying itself one line at a time. Such features will not allow us to rush as we would hurry through the morning newspaper.”

Chronicle of Higher Education 48.13 (13 November 2001).


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