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Forgetfulness Analysis



Author: poem of Billy Collins Type: poem Views: 10


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.

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Wonderful poem that captures a tragic reality for us all (nothing and no one lasts forever) but maintains an ironic and very cleverly humorous distance from this sad transience of our common journey

| Posted on 2014-05-14 | by a guest


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Forgetfulness
“Nothing can last forever. There isn\'t any memory, no matter how intense, that doesn\'t fade out at last.” (Juan Rulfo) This quote completely relates to the poem Forgetfulness by Billy Collins in many ways. The poem is about a person who is aging and experiencing memory loss as he grows older. In the poem memory loss begins with something small like forgetting the quadratic equation but by the end it is forgetting how to ride a bike or swimming. The author relates too many of his readers because in the poem it states that new memories are replaced with the old. A lot of adolescents can relate to what the narrator is saying for example, when teens study for a test and cram all the information in one night, they may have received the highest possible mark on the test but generally in two days everything will be forgotten and replaced by another subject. There are various literary devices used that construct the subtext that memories will perish no matter how intense. The three of the following which this essay will further analyze are allusions, diction and imagery.
Allusion is used a couple of times in the poem to emphasize the subtext of the poem for instance, “It has floated away down a dark mythological river whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall” (Collins) Collins carefully chooses his words to create the literary device in known as allusion. The river that begins with an L is a referral to the Greek mythological river in Hades. The story behind this river is that whoever drinks from it will experience memory loss. He uses the allusion to contrast with his next point which is, “on your way to oblivion where you will join those who have forgotten how to swim or ride a bicycle.” (Collins) The meaning of this subtext is that as you grow older you will begin to forget more important things that you could not imagine to lose, such as riding a bike or swimming, and that this is one of the steps into oblivion. It will be as if you drank from the dark mythological river of L. This is also ironic because the narrator cannot recall the name of the river that makes you forget. This proves that allusion is used to bring out the subtext of the poem which is that eventually, overtime all your memories are bound to evaporate and disappear even if it is an activity that you are used to doing daily like riding a bicycle.
Another literary device the author uses to bring alive the meaning of the poem is diction. The choice of words the author uses portrays helps convey the meaning which he is trying to get across. An example of diction in the poem is when he uses the word lurking in this quotation, “whatever it is you are trying to remember, it is not poised at the tip of your tongue, not even lurking in some obscure corner of spleen.” The nature of lurking is to be or remain hidden so as to wait in ambush for someone or something. This relates to human memories and how sometimes we cannot recall a certain song but it is on the tip of your tongue but no words are coming out and then suddenly a different day it creeps up unexpectedly. What the narrator is stating is that these memories are gone forever, they have vanished and they are not even lurking around your body like they use too. The literary device diction, even though in this case is only one word, helps get across the point that the memories that once ambushed you and appeared out of nowhere will cease to exist and will fade away.
Similarly the author uses imagery to further portray the theme of forgetfulness.

| Posted on 2012-10-10 | by a guest


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I think this poem explains a product of the human condition: We forget. We forget the simplest things; the day, the date, people\'s names and faces. In school you\'d forget what you just learned to make room for new information. It doesn\'t happen on purpose but little by little we lose things, sometimes those things could make us who we are, and you might never get them back.

| Posted on 2011-10-16 | by a guest


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i really dont understand this poem but with the help of other comments im learning to understand it more.

| Posted on 2011-10-06 | by a guest


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One way of looking at this may be that nothing is eternal. He talks about basic skills such as riding a bike that will one day leave us. \"Learning how to ride a bike\" is something that is commonly used as something that will stay with us forever once obtained. Yet even that, the author states will leave us. Even a love poem that can have so much meaning to you can leave you. Or perhaps its the love itself. My interpretation is that everything, not only memories will leave us.

| Posted on 2011-01-12 | by a guest


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I think Billy collins\' poem forgetfulness is a rather light-hearted way Of looking at memory loss in older people. His use of allusions to the river Lethe are actually quite clear as the leather is the river of forgetfulness and he uses irony in his sentence \"as far as you can recall\". Collins blends subtle humor and irony into his poem very effectively. Apart from use of personifying his memory further emphasizes this and it us effective because he tries to show us that our minds are almost not in our control. Also it helps others understand those with memory loss better.

| Posted on 2010-12-14 | by a guest


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In this poem, Billy Collins tries to show us how our brains, our minds and our memories are vulnerable towards our lives. He gives a special attention to his profession, the way he forgets pertinent things like dates and how simple things like the moon trhough the window gives him inspiration.

| Posted on 2010-11-16 | by a guest


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I think this poem is talking about man's restless mind at a random moment in a day. A mind is restless and has many parts. Collins shows how a man's brain is constantly striving to memorize more without forgetting. However, there are always moments where man is "struggling to remember" but some are imminently vanishing.

| Posted on 2010-05-25 | by a guest


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The poem has no rhyme scheme, and because it doesn't, it helps give a random sense to the poem. However, if there were a rhyming pattern, the randomness would be within limits.
Also, this poem seems to be aimed towards adults who know a little more, because think from a childs point of view, I wouldn't think over the river Styx when he mentions 'a dark mythological river,' but it still amusing.
I was entertained at Billy Collins personification, escpecially at the 'quadratic equation' part.

| Posted on 2010-05-12 | by a guest


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This poem "Forgetfulness" is talking about man's biggest vulnerability which incidentally happens to be his brain. As the years go by one's memories slip and so do we. That is it in the nut shell basically. Billy Collins uses a light-hearted apporach to how one can distance himself from the most beautiful memories of life. He does not do a good job of being very clear though. I mean the main point is obvious at first but very few inferences can be made. If it were for more detail then it would be better. Also I just noticed that this poem is actually a prose.

| Posted on 2008-11-25 | by a guest


.: :.

This poem "Forgetfulness" is talking about man's biggest vulnerability which incidentally happens to be his brain. As the years go by one's memories slip and so do we. That is it in the nut shell basically. Billy Collins uses a light-hearted apporach to how one can distance himself from the most beautiful memories of life. He does not do a good job of being very clear though. I mean the main point is obvious at first but very few inferences can be made. If it were for more detail then it would be better. Also I just noticed that this poem is actually a prose.

| Posted on 2008-11-25 | by a guest




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