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Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins

[full text available]

I came across this poem and it has gotten me thinking (more) about ways in which reading might be healing.  Reading as a creative process akin to—and inter-related with—writing as a creative process.

I especially like the first eleven lines, which are framed as a teacher’s request:

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.

All these images for reading:

Holding a poem (a story?  a page?) up to the light
Seeing outlines? Layers?  Seeing the bones like in an x-ray?

Pressing one’s ear against the hive of it
As if it’s still buzzing with life and activity, even now, long after it’s been written.  The words like tiny winged creatures each playing their role.  Worker bees?  A queen?

Dropping a mouse into the poem   
What about a fish?  Letting it loose to swim between and among the spaces.
Then bringing the fish back out.  A talking fish?

Reading as walking inside the room of a poem 
Or the rooms?   
Turning on the light?  Opening windows?
Finding something inside the refrigerator?

Reading as (first?) waterskiing across the surface of it
And then what?  Diving down?
Which brings to mind Adrienne Rich’s poem, Diving into the Wreck—-
Diving down to explore the wreck,
Diving down to discover treasure

And how might this kind of reading be healing?

Could this kind of reading—creative—imaginative—could it—sometimes—coax our minds into becoming flexible—even nimble—in some of the ways that yoga postures can do this same thing for our bodies?

Reading as a kind of focused—(and sometimes playful)—concentration? 
Reading as a form of meditation?


[please note: this piece first appeared on Writing and Healing, Year 2, and has now been moved to the Healing Library]