Monday, May 13, 2013

I prefer to waterski.

I loved Billy Collins' analysis of the typical student approach to poetry:

...all they want to do 
Is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.
They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means. 

Yes, in given circumstances I'm one of those aggressive students that's holding the knife.  But only when the teacher says, "Dissection time!"  

However, when there's no obligation to be "right" in my interpretation, or to have the correct answer to a question about  the poem, then I just waterski.  I hit the bumps with my knees bent and my arms relaxed, trying to focus on what turn the boat will take next.  When it's smooth, I look to my left and right, taking in the entire scene surrounding me. 

I want them to waterski 
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore. 

It made me think of the scene from Dead Poets Society, on the second day of class, when the students are prepared to be spoon-fed the subject, to be spoon-fed interpretations of poetry.  Enjoy the clip, so my poorly worded summary doesn't ruin such a memorable scene from a masterly movie.  


  1. Great scene. Great movie. Fits in well with your post. Thanks!

  2. It is heartening to read and see that poetry isn't rigid or to be read in a certain way. It is best enjoyed personally, however that may be. Bravo!

  3. Thanks, Jamie! I love the imagery of tying a poem to a chair and torturing a confession out of it. I think I have done that a time or two! It's probably a good time to take up water skiing!