Guest poem sent in by Phebe Haugen
(Poem #1397) Introduction to Poetry
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. But 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.
Not long ago, when my teenage son was struggling with poetry in his English class, I gave him this wonderful poem. For a kid trying to figure out what imagery is all about, this little gem offers itself as a color slide, a hive, a dark room, a lake, a knowing, but silent, defendant. It invites us to engage all these images - except the last one - so that we might see into the heart of a poem without bludgeoning the poor thing to death. And who among us doesn't know that feeling of being the mouse dropped into the poem, trying to probe its way out? Phebe