Friday, October 26, 2007

Poetry Friday: Pullman and Collins

This semester I am lucky enough to be teaching a first-year seminar called "Literature, Intertextuality, and Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials." When reading Paradise Lost, the students and I also considered Pullman's "Introduction" to a 2005 edition of Milton's classic published by Oxford University Press. Pullman's "Introduction" is worth the cost of the volume, despite the fact there are no notes to the text.* (The lack of notes was intentional. Pullman wanted "to let the poem stand alone.")

In the "Introduction," Pullman argues for reading poetry aloud: "The sound is part of the meaning, and that part only comes alive when you speak're already far closer to the poem than someone who sits there in silence looking up meanings and references, and making assiduous notes." Pullman continues, "We need to remind ourselves of this, especially if we have anything to do with education." (3)

Our discussion on Pullman's "Introduction" to Paradise Lost brought up, of course, Billy Collins' "Introduction to Poetry." Here are the final five lines of "Introduction to Poetry" as today's Poetry Friday entry:

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.

Read the poem in its entirety here at

The students and I discussed the importance of experiencing the "rolling swells and peals of sound, powerful rhythms and rich harmonies" present in poetry (Pullman, 3), and then went on to tie Paradise Lost to a chair and flog it. But, still, our intentions were honest and good.
* Pullman's 10-page introduction to Paradise Lost is worth the cost of the Oxford University Press edition despite the fact it is printed on glossy paper. I do not have a book fetish. Books are for reading, not collecting. And glossy paper--like glossy photos--gives me the creeps. (And, yes, I do understand the glossy paper is for the reproductions of Burghers' woodcuts. But I still don't like it.)
Today's roundup is over at Literary Safari.