Poetry is a way for the reader to openly interpret a poem in almost any way they see fit. Because there is so much freedom of interpretation with poetry, there leaves a lot of room for discussion and opposition. Billy Collin’s poem, “Introduction to Poetry”, breaks down the basic ways for interpreting and understanding a poem. In summary, he explains that the reader cannot focus on trying to figure out one specific meaning of a poem, but instead, try to piece together small parts to understand a deeper meaning.
Collin’s rules on how to interpret a poem can be applied to Hughes’s poem about a young student writing a poem for homework. Instead of looking at Hughes’s poem as a whole, the reader can better understand it by breaking it down and figuring out why each line is important and how it ties together with the poem as a whole. Understanding Collins rules to interpret a poem, help the reader decipher Hughes poem on a deeper, more academic level. Langston Hughes’s poem explains how a black, twenty two year old man and the rest of his white classmates are given an assignment to write a paper.
The narrator, who is also the student, explains his thoughts about the assignment and how him being the only colored one in his class might be reflected on his grade on the assignment. At the beginning of the poem, he explains how he has to get to class everyday by traveling across some of the “better” parts of town. The student goes on to explain how even though he is colored, he likes the same things and has the same wants as everyone else. He states that he is no different than the rest of his class and that he too has knowledge to share.
By stating this, the student is expressing to the reader how he thinks him and the instructor are equal. In the last few lines the student writes, “As I learn from you, / I guess you learn from me” (37-38). This explains how even though their skin color and age is different they are still able to learn from each other. The student has a somewhat optimistic and confident tone throughout the poem. He is aware of his capabilities and knows that he can be just as successful as anyone else.
Billy Collins “Introduction to Poetry” explains how whenever people analyze a poem they do not try to find the true message of it. By writing, “But all they want to do / is tie the poem to a chair with rope / and torture a confession out of it,” explains how the majority of people are lazy and want everything handed to them effortlessly (12-14). This last stanza explains how some people look at poems from one point of view and expect the meaning of the poem to be written out for them.
The author is stating that people should look at the poem from different angles just as one would look at the world from a color slide. He tries to explain to the reader that if one were to interpret the poem from a whole new approach, then they could find a deeper meaning than just the surface meaning. After reading Collins “Introduction to Poetry”, the reader should have a better sense of how to interpret Hughes’s poem. Throughout the first part of Hughes’s poem the reader may think all of the characters background information including his address, age, and hometown is pointless.
After reading an entire stanza about this “pointless” information the reader may try to stop understanding the poem before they even finish it. If the reader uses Collins instructions about analyzing a poem, they may find that all of this “pointless” information is actually important and helps contribute to the characters feelings of insecurity. Collins poem explains that not all poems have one specific answer or meaning the writer is trying to get across.
Keeping this idea in mind, the reader may realize that Hughes’s poem, in fact, does not state an answer or solution to the characters mixed feelings. Although both of these poems leave room the readers own special interpretation, there is a basic meaning and idea to each one. Both of these poems fit well together because Collin’s thoughts and ideas can be directly applied when reading Hughes’s poem. The poems are an effective example of how even though a poem may seem short and simple, there is usually a deeper and greater meaning beneath the surface.