Apparently there are little similarities between Billy Collins’ “Introduction to Poetry” and Audre Lorde’s “Power”. In terms of theme, tone, subject matter or style, the two poems have more distinctions than common points. This essay analyzes Collins’ and Lorde’s poems with the purpose of comparing and contrasting “Introduction to Poetry” and “Power”, delineating how each poem makes use of stylistic elements for expressing the subject and theme of their poem to their audiences.
In “Introduction to Poetry”, Billy Collins uses the first tense to develop a monologue. The monologue is in fact a critique addressed to the readers of poems and the one who utters it seems to be the poet himself. The poem represents Collins’ own frustrations related to the fact that poetry readers lack the sensitivity of letting themselves carried away by the magic and beauty of poetry, but instead they try to decipher it using rough mechanisms.
Collins uses a mix of authoritative and elegiac tone for expressing his sadness for the fact that poetries are not appreciated as they should be – as art. The poet scorns the readers who read poems like detectives, for finding out what they hide through their verses and their metaphors. As structure, Collins’ poem has five stanzas, composed of either two, three or five lines. The structure of the poem itself seems to transmit the fact that in poetry there is no rule to be followed, just as in art perfection lays in imperfection. Collins suggests how he would have expected his readers to react to poems” “press an ear against its hive”, “waterski/across the surface of a poem” (Collins 57), expressing his personal belief that readers should be one with the poem that they enjoy, being part of the poem’s story. The poet shows his disappointment in the second part of the poem, when he explains what his readers actually do with the poems: “tie the poem to a chair with rope/and torture a confession out of it”. In other words, instead of being a participative observer of the story (as Collins desires), the readers are detached observers, trying to decipher the verses of the poems without sensing them, but solely using their reasoning.
Audre Lorde’s “Power” poem also expresses an elegiac tone, but more than this is expresses frustration and rage for the endured humiliation and in the same time it includes a violent tone, which incite to revolt. The “Power” poem starts with a metaphoric allegory, which associates the difference between poetry and rhetoric with the will of dying for protecting one’s child. This allegory, as well as the connection with poetry and rhetoric is only understood after reading the entire poem.
“Power” is a poem that reflects the social injustices, the biased treatment and the discrimination that the African American people face every day. It tells the story of an African American child murdered by a policeman only because of his race (“I didn’t notice the size or anything else/only the color” (Lorde 42)). It talks about the injustice of the judicial system that set the policeman free, justifying this act through the fact that had murdered a Black person, indicating that his action was right. It tells the story of an African American woman who is convinced into believing that the policeman that killed her son was legitimate and his liberation was the right thing to do. The poem is a cry for justice and of acknowledging that the justice is not attributed to the African American people. The poem is a symbol of pain, transmitted within the African American population from generation to generation, which perpetrates and develops this race’s own judicial system, by paying back the violence, humiliation, shame and injustice that this people suffered through ages. The author of this poem fantasizes about the payback time, when the white people will suffer the oppressions of the African Americans. But when an African American boy will rape and torture an 85 years old white woman, this act would be called poetry. By comparison, the act of killing an innocent African American child is simply rhetoric.
Collins’ “Introduction to Poetry” and Lorde’s “Power” have in common the interest for poetry. There are different approaches on how each poet debates this theme. Collins treats this theme with a romantic sorrow, judging that readers do not feel the poem, but reason them, which he disapproves. On the other hand, Audre Lorde uses the poetry theme as a symbol of translating the social and judicial injustice that the African American face, by comparing the death of an African American child (as the representative of a rhetoric speech) with the rape of an 85 years old white woman (as the representative hero of a poetry). Where Collins uses personification (“tie the poem to a chair” (Collins 57)) and imagery (“drop a mouse into a poem”, “beating it with a hose” (Collins 57)), Lorde employs symbolic representation for explaining that the power belongs to the white people, who will make a poetry out of the rape of an old woman by an African American mane, but a debatable rhetoric from the murder of an African American boy at the hands of an white policeman. Lorde’s symbolism, the rage, frustration and injustice that it contains is first sensed, not reasoned, and this is how it connects to Collin’s poem.
Stylistically differed, Billy Collins’ “Introduction to Poetry” and Audre Lorde’s “Power” are connected because Collins the first teaches the reader how to sense a poem, not to analyze it as a detective and the second drives the reader to sense the poem, letting oneself carried away by its verses. The common theme, the interest in poetry, is distinctively approached, creating different, but consistent literary value.