Monday, March 3, 2008

Period Two - Explication Analysis

For this assignment, I want you to read the following Poem Explication and comment about the writing.
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.


Forgetfulness
BY: Billy Collins
Explication

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.

23 comments:

Chloe C 2 said...

Bravo to the author of this explication. Simply bravo. The ideas are neatly organized in a somewhat chronological order and this author obviously did some research. I have found that I had to reread some sentences for better understanding what with the confusing grammer; I think one sentence didn't have a verb. Perhaps the first thing that struck me was the length and the vocabulary. (you used juxtaposition!) I did not understand how the paragraphs were arranged. I surmised they were grouped into ideas but some of them didn't fit together. eg. the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs. There wasn't a lot of tying back the the assertion, especially the last few lines, which, though important, seemed not to fit entirely with the assertion. You seem to concentate on only certain words of the poem and make barely any mention of the others. I would suggest how the author uses his entire poem to prove a point, though I realize it is hard for this particular poem.

Herman T 2 said...

This explication is outstanding. I agree with Chloe about the chronological order, research, and the vocabulary. I thought that Mr. Walsh might’ve possibly written this. At first I want to comment on the 4th paragraph, it was confusing at first until I reread it multiple times. The entire explication had an awkward order. It kind of jumped around for a bit from the idea of old to death, but they entwine at the end. Another thing that stood out was the sections or word selections that the author picked from the poem. The words were specifically chosen to prove a point, but the author didn’t incorporate other words to reach that point. I still have 2 lines, so I would like to point out at Chloe’s typo of using “I have found that I had to reread some sentences for better understanding what with the confusing grammer;” you used “the” twice and it is grammar. This is completely irrelevant.

Nikita R 2 said...

Wow, this explication was really good. I agree with both Herman and Chloe. The author did have chronological order, good research and good vocabulary. However some of the sentences did not make sense at first and needed to be reread a couple of times before there was an understanding of what was being said. The author also picked and used specific word choices. Although the selections were good, they did not use the other selections that were available. Somewhat of a bad and good thing was that sometimes the explication did not stay at one point, like Herman said, it jumped around a lot. The good thing was that it all came together at the end. Overall this was an excellent explication.

Consuelo T 2 said...

This was great written explication; the author did a great job. As I read the explication I felt that she/he had a really good understanding of the poem. The author use good vocabulary, like using juxtaposition. I also noticed that they did some research did, like the Greek Mythology. I think the research helped the author prove their point. I think that they did jump around a little like Herman said. However I think referring back to the idea of death tied it together a bit. Overall I thought it was very organized. I agree with Chloe that some parts of the conclusion didn’t really tie back to the assertion. On the whole, I think it was a beautifully written explication.

Mr. Walsh said...

I'm noticing the thread of the explication struggling with organization. Any suggestions?

Yes, I agree with everyone that the author of this explication did a great job using literary terms: juxtaposition, tone, metaphor, allusion, etc. This is something I readily expect you to do as well.

Trang T 2 said...

For me, the author of this explication had put lots of effort in trying to understand and analyze this poem. And yet, for the first time, I completely forgot what the poem was about. This explication is excellent with helpful explanations. The author has shown us how the poem is set up and given us further details of the poem. She/he also made a strong assertion. “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.” I really like the fact that he/she points out the pattern of this poem doesn’t flow in any kind of techniques. But instead, the poet wrote it as his unconsciousness stream thoughts and the patterns are fallen apart. One thing that I kind of disagree with the author is about “a love poem”. As the author said that love poem is this poem, but for me I don’t believe so because this poem doesn’t appeal anything involved in love. The author has also pointed out the shift in the poem. Over all, I’d recommend that this explication should be an example for teaching explication process.

Trang T 2 said...

Because this assignment is posted on the blog so I don’t really want to point out negative things. However, eventually, I perceived that the author may have struggled in setting up the analysis. I may point out the 4th paragraph, the author tells us the trend of the poem tending towards the death, and then she/he inserted the analysis of the last sentence, the irony of it and the author came back to analyze the previous stanza.

Mr. Walsh said...

Trang, interesting point about love poem. I found that idea so striking I wished the author wrote more about it.

Yes, there are some organizational issues, Trang, don't worry about pointing about constructive ideas.

Jillian D 2 said...

This was a good explication, congrats to the person who wrote it. In the paper i thought that everything was neatly done. The author of the paper seemed to have taken it stanza by stanza for the most part. There were some confusing parts that needed to be reread, and I do agree with Herman because there were parts that just seemed to jump around and not really stay in one point. the author used great vocabualry. I think that overall it was good and everything came together, but the organization portion was a little bit jumpy and confusing. I agree with everyone that said that the author needs to use more of the poem to prove the point and not just the select few.

Hillary D 2 said...

The fact that she first thought about the title and went deeper into the meaning was great. The fact that she said it was an ironic title just made me want to read more of her explication because I wouldn't have explored it as thoroughly as her. I see research was critical for the poem, i.e. the Lethe "Oblivion" river. I'm glad she went that far as to finding out what the L stood for and that cleared that topic up. This poem is a great coming of age poem and she connects aging to forgetfulness to death. There are many if's and many different ways to look at the poem, which makes it all the more interesting and fun to explicate. She did a great job in getting to as many of those points and even found more ways to look at it. I do agree with the others about the order or the paragraphs because it did skip around a lot, but STILL..IT'S AWESOME.


I must say, this is a great explication!!!!!!

Aaron G 2 said...

The assertion is excellent; it is straight forward and to the point. The second paragraph is very innovative and looks very deep into the poem. Many people would not see the irony in the poem as this writer did. I like how they said they read it twice to understand it better and to understand the underlying meaning. There is great research to name the river and what it stands for. The last sentence of the third paragraph is exceptional. I like how the writer shows how the seriousness of the poem kicks in and leaves the reader thinking. But that does contradict the second paragraph and how the poem is forgetful. The last sentence is deep and heartfelt. All in all this is a great assertion so…Good Job!

Jimmy v.2 said...

I was really blown away by the writer’s exploration of the author’s allusions. It gave the writer a solid anchor to branch off of. That third paragraph talked about the author’s hint of forgetfulness to go with age and death. But then the writer reminds us of the humor in the poem to reveal the tone. The paragraph before the wrap up really worked to pull out a deeper meaning that is eventually summed up in the conclusion. Overall it was a really interesting explication to read. I loved the connections the writer made to the ‘’dark mythological river whose name begins with an L’’.
The explication wasn’t boring to read nor was it confusing even if it may have had some problems with organization. I think the writer made a really strong stance and had powerful evidence to back it up.

Jillann C 2 said...

In the explication, the first paragraph sounds boring, to be completely honest. It seems as if the first paragraph contained exactly what it needed to compose of and that was it. There was no creativity. As for the actual explication of the poem, the author shows a deep understanding as to why the author of the poem uses all of his literary devices. The amount of evidence used within the explication was phenomenal. The fact that the author of the explication can chose multiple pieces of evidence truly understands the meaning of an explication and how to connect their point of view of the poem to the literary devices used. The only major concern with this explication is the length. From the amount of explicating in the poem, if it was cut down to the major topics with just enough evidence, the explication would be better instead of it having to drag on. The conclusion was a well written clincher; it tied the whole explication together which was a good end point. Overall, the explication was a little boring at times but the author most definitely got the point across.

sandy j 2 said...

This explication is very well organized, if i didn't know a high school student wrote it, i would have thought a college student wrote it instead. One thing i like about the writer is that he or she lists the literary devices used in the poem. That shows they were paying attention to the poem and that they understand it. Although in the third paragraph, i didn't completely agree with the death analysis. I didn't really see that point come up clearly. The writer also uses vocabulary words that fit in perfectly with the explanation. I like when he or she spoke about oblivion, because it shows his or her personal opinion on it but backs it up with a rational explanation. I also like the conclusion, because usually people are confused or don't know exactly what to write in one. But this person knew what they were trying to say ans they said it well and everything fell into position.

Jess L 2 said...

I think this is a great explication, and agree with everybody else about that fact. However, I have a problem with it's core - the assertion. I didn't take the poem to be about death at all. I think it was written about students, because we have so much information shoved down our throats to memorize, that eventually we start forgetting other things. Also, the assertion is really straightforward, and doesn't really express any definitive ideas, and it isn't very arguable. However, I think the way that he/she broke down the structure of the poem was genius, and he/she really knows how to dive into something like this. By reading the explication and then re-reading the poem, I noticed things about it that I didn't before, like the irony of the poem's name, for example. All in all, I think this was a great explication, and although I don't quite agree with the idea it expresses about the theme, I think it was beautifully written, and I hope I can use this as an example to strengthen my own writing.

Jessica F 2 said...

I thought the explication was very well written. Great Job to the person who wrote this. It was very organized, I thought. Some parts could have been written maybe a little better. Some parts were more thought out then others. There were also some points that the author touched upon but could have gone more into. There was a very good use of vocabulary. Like everyone else said, the author could of used more parts of the poem to prove his or her points better. Overall, it was a good paper and very well written.

Mr. Walsh said...

As far as this poem having an arguable assertion, I believe it does. In fact, there are several conclusions with which the author takes that I can and would counter. However, his/her evidence and how this evidence points to its larger idea is overall fairly strong.

The detail, yes.. everyone should notice the detail!!!

henry d:2 said...

I enjoyed reading this, for the writer broke the poem into tiny pieces that conveyed the writer’s assertion, somewhat. Although I do have a few negative comments, it was rather lengthy for an explication. Also the assertion in the beginning wasn’t the assertion the writer was trying to tell us. Instead the writer threw a curve ball at the end by writing “even though the poem is leaning toward the idea of death, the tone and shift of the poem is pulling toward another idea,” and changed the whole assertion or should I say added more. It just seems the idea that was brought upon in the last 4 paragraphs was demeaned. I’m against this method of revealing the meaning of the poem for it would have been more fluid if the writer had stated this assertion in the first place. There were also other flaws in the organization, it seems rather jumpy due to the writing “the speaker uses form, personification, irony allusion and a touch of humor,” for the evidence ahead isn’t exactly in the order “form, personification, irony, allusion, and a touch of humor.” Not a single thought of negativity comes to mind except for word choices in sentences. Kudos to the writer’s evidence for every one of them is meaningful and builds onto the writer’s conviction.
Chloe I disagreed with your comment about how the writer didn’t “make barely any mention of the” rest of the poem. If you meant something different then I was confused. The writer does use the entire poem to prove a point. I chuckled at Herman’s comment about Mr. Walsh writing this, for I would expect a more outstanding piece from him. ^_______^

DAvid T 2 said...

Wow. I like how the explication is put in order and how it is rich in vocabulary. This explication puts mine to shame. Even the assertion was good. Each paragraph was backed up with compelling evidence. The only thing that was bad for me was that I had to re-read it a couple of times to understand it. But, once i did, it was easier to follow. I think that the explication should be more straight to the point, but that's just me. Overall, I'd say this was the best explication I've seed to date.

barbara j 2 said...

This was a great explication. I can see how much time, effort, and researches the author of the explication has taken. I like how he/she showed how the author of the poem used allusion, personification, and everything else, it shows how good he/she studied the poem and there are many support from the poem. I kind of got lost at some point due to the vocabulary and the length of the poem so i had to reread few times. I think that the explication could have been as good if it was shorter. People seem to think that making writings long allows them to better show their points but sometimes what we are trying to convey to the readers, drags a little. I think the whole point of an explication is to go straight to the point. Other than that it was beautiful and helpful as well.

Martin D 2 said...

It really sucks to be last in blogging about something like this...First of all; I want to say that this was a good choice of a poem, since anyone could relate to it and that I could never be able to write an explication that was as good as this. I agree with those who said that the author had a very strong assertion, as well as plenty of details to support it. I, too, found the explication to be rather long though. I agree with David, on the fact that it needs to get straight to the point, rather than dragging on with unnecessary details or ideas. One thing that I was curious about was how the author knew what juxtaposition was, because we just learned it recently, where we did these explications prior to the lesson, unless they knew/learned about it before.

Mr. Walsh said...

A couple of things - particularly on Henry's comment -

I go back forth about whether it is most effective to be straight-forward or "throw a curveball". I think the curveball works if the author earned the right to throw a curveball. In this case, I believe the author did. However, this is a case by case thing.

Yes, organization and clarity is a point of growth for this student; however, their attention to detail is laudable as well as the author's ideas, which are strong.

As for juxtaposition, I must confess that the student meet with me after school and I helped the student, not with the idea, but by labelling the device.

I also should point out that this is the student's fourth draft, after an outline, after a TPCASTT, after an after-school meeting, and after some major revisiting. Just to show you the hardwork that goes in to put something together like this.

-Mr. Walsh

Kimberly said...

This is a really good explication. I liked how the author began the explication, the first paragraph was pretty good. The author of this explication did some research like looking up the mythological Greek underground river Lethe, that erases people's memories if they drink from it. There were some literary terms included like juxtaposition, irony, tone, allusion, and more. The author traced how the tone of the poem changed from serious to mocking and back to serious. The author also mentioned about how ironic the poem was and the irony of the poem. The explication was a little too lengthy, I wouldn't expect an explication to be this long. The structure and order of the explication was also a bit confusing, but overall, it was a great explication.