An Introduction to Poetry is a much beloved, tongue in cheek little gem of a poem in which Billy Collins invites us to chuckle at any unpleasant early experience we may have had with poetry. While many teachers approach poetry with gusto, there are unfortunately, those who had us “torture a confession” out of poems to “find out what they really mean.” Let’s heal that old wound! I often start an encounter with this poem if the participants are new to poetry as adults…it clears the air with a laugh!
Forgetfulness by Billy Collins gets a pitch perfect recitation by a teen who may amaze your viewers. When I show this to a poetry circle, comments range from respectful awe “How does someone so young capture so well what it’s like to have memory lapses?” to “Doesn’t this recitation bring the poem to life in a new way?” You could make this viewing the second voice if you are following the mindful reading pattern of hearing the poem out loud twice with pauses for thought, before any discussion starts.
Here’s an artful and stimulating take on the same poem that can liven up your poetry circle. When a circle has been meeting over time, I’ve found that it keeps discussion fresh if you mix it up a little, and so I may screen something like this video in place of one of the readings done by the people in the room.
Just to illustrate how varied are the resources that may appeal to different people, this reading by Tom O’Bedlam is simple and read with resonant voice, low, and for many listeners, very engaging. This video features the text on screen, which some people also like. Of course, in the poetry circle, participants are best served by having the poems in front of them on paper…many people can’t hold onto the poem enough to discuss it if it’s not in front of them.