Focus on what works and what may need improvement in the explication. Focus on the student's assertion, support, organization, style, etc. I included the poem first, then the paper. You will need to read the poem to understand the paper. This is a paper from a student in period 4.
Your response should be a full paragraph in length (8-10 sentences). This is due by March 7th.
Forgetfulness by Billy Collins
The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,
as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.
Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,
something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.
Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.
It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.
No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.
BY: Billy Collins
The poem Forgetfulness is about the fading of memories. Throughout the poem, Billy Collins’s speaker suggests that with the increasing of age and the approaching of death, the memories that the brain harbors start to fade away one by one. In order to point the audience to the larger idea, the speaker uses form, personification, irony, allusion, and a touch of humor.
The form of the poem mimics the idea of forgetfulness. The title of the poem, Forgetfulness is an irony in itself since after first reading the poem; the reader would discard the poem as nothing memorable. In order to create this effect, the author does not use any fancy rhyme scheme, alliterations, or makes the poem awkward to read. The poem starts out with a four-lined stanza, and gradually, the form of the poem starts to fall apart which creates a parallel to the fading of memories. Using form and many other techniques the author defines the symptom of forgetfulness that comes with getting older.
The genius of the poem starts to unravel itself after rereading the poem. In the first stanza, the author recalls forgetting “the name of the author …/ followed obediently by the title, the plot,/ the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel” (line 1-3). “Obediently” (line 2) suggests that the memories fade away without much thought. When the poem is starting, the speaker speaks specifically of the “novel” (line 4), “the names of the nine muses” (line 8), and “the quadratic equation” (line 9). However, as the poem progresses, the speaker starts to forget what he/she has forgotten, referring to the memory as “whatever it is” (line 13) and “whose name begins with an L” (line 17). Moreover, the connotation of the poem is pointing toward the idea of getting older and eventually death. The author uses allusions throughout the poem, referencing to math, Greek mythology, geography, and many more. One of the allusions is “a dark mythological river whose name begins with an L” (line 13). L stands for Lethe, a Greek river from the underworld that erases the memories of the person who drinks from it. The speaker continue with “on your way to oblivion” (line 14) which is also hinted toward death since the word “oblivion” (line 14) not only refers to forgetfulness but to death since Lethe’s other name is the “River of Oblivion”. Lethe is located in Hades, where the soul of the dead goes. The speaker uses the allusion to the Greek’s mythological river Lethe to express the idea that as a person gets older and approaches death; his/her memory will unconsciously fade way.
Though the poem is about getting older and the probability of death, the tone of the poem is not sad or gloomy. The use of “you” throughout the poem points to the fact that the speaker is addressing to his/her audience informally, creating a conversational tone. The tone of the poem is also rather humorous. The author created this effect by using irony, such as the last line which suggesting the fading “of a love poem that [one] used to know by heart” (line 24), “poem” might mean this poem. Another irony is the tone itself. The poem is about death yet the tone is a bit mocking. Also, the author uses personification that includes the “memories” (line 5) “retir[ing]” (line 6) to a part of the brain, “pack[ing] (line 9) its bag”, “poise[ing] on the tip of the tongue” (line 14), “lurking” (line 15) in the corner, or “float[ing]” (line 16) down a river. While reading the poem, the reader might laugh at the “little fishing village” (line 7) and the “slipping away” (line 11) of memory. Yet, as the reader continue and finishes the last lines, the fear of forgetfulness takes over.
In the last five lines of the poem, the speaker brings to reader back to the common place that shifts the poem to a more serious note. The suggestion of forgetting “how to swim and how to ride a bicycle” (line 15) is arduous; therefore, the speaker is implying the old age or death, where these simple tasks are not needed, and forgotten. In the last stanza, the author suggests that with the forgotten of memory, there is always an attempt to bring a memory back. A person would “rise[s] in the middle of the night/ to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war” (line 20-21). The last sentence of the poem is also the shift of the poem. The idea of “the moon drifted out of a love poem that [one] used to know by heart” (line 21-22) suggests that the speaker have suffered a significant emotional lost. The lost is not something the speaker can replace by looking it up, like a date, a name, or a place; it is something more than that. Billy Collins' speaker leads the reader through an emotional maze that leaves him/her at an ending place that is completely different from the beginning point.
Even though the poem is leaning toward the idea of death, the tone and shift of the poem is pulling toward another idea. The juxtaposition of the feelings of fear and amusement bring out the message of Collins' speaker. Most readers can relate to Forgetfulness, the forgetfulness of something is common, yet the poem guide the reader from being forgetfulness to the path of death. Intertwine with the ideas of getting older and death is the humorous and conversational tone. However, the poem ends in a more serious tone. The combination of the distinctively different tones brings forth the larger meaning that as age increases, it is all right to let that one small insignificant memory to slip away because those memories can be replaced; however, there are also precious memories that cannot be replaced. The memories that cannot be replaced are the most important of all; those are the memories that should not be forgotten so easily.