In the poem, Billy Collins addresses “them.” The term is used by the speaker to refer to the “readers” of the poem including poets and students. It pursuits at educating readers on how to interpret a poem rather than distort or manipulate its meaning. As such, Collins desire readers to listen to the poem and analyze it correctly the usage of literary devices and a significant tone.
Collins makes use of various metaphors in the poem to address the readers. When the speaker tells the readers to “hold the poem up to the mild like a color side,” he connotes that the reader must see thru the poem so as to clearly get the inner picture. In this case, the “color side” is the poem; the reader must “get through it” and understand what the poem means. When the speaker states, “or press an ear against its hive,” he compares the act of reading a poem with listening or looking for the sound of honeybees. This means that a reader must pay keen attention while reading in order to be able to interpret it.
In the last stanzas, the speaker posit that as readers strive to get the meaning of the poem, they manipulate it and end up losing its value. Tying the poem to a rope and “torturing” it is intended to mean that readers would want to force themselves in getting the context of the poem without thorough analysis. Due to rush and assuming the surface meaning of poetry, they end up manipulating and making wrong interpretation. Thus, beating it with a “hose” further explains how forceful the reader can be to get the meaning of the poem.
Collins does not argue that poem have no meaning. On the contrary, he means that there are a lot of meaning and value that poems hold. As such, it is the role of the readers to read it (the poem) carefully, analyze and interpret the meaning, without losing the art, fun, and excitement of art. If readers are to approach poetry with open-mindedness, they will be able to easily relate to it.