Dr. Kelley Rowley Ph.D a
21 June 2018
The author of the poem “Forgetfulness” Billy Collins sounds as if he is a man without hope or without purpose. Collins uses specific words as to how he feels towards himself to set the mood of this poem. He uses words like heartbreaking, goodbye, and struggling to do this. One would think the author is struggling with his condition making him sad or depressed about the memory loss he is experiencing. As a way to try to deal with his condition Collins forces himself to learn new information to replace old information and he express this in his poem, with the phrase “and even now as you memorize the order of the planets, something else is slipping away”.The author can relate to many readers with this poem stating old memories are being replaced with new. In life you are always making new memories, no matter how hard you try to remember the old ones; as time goes on you forget more details that he or she use to remember. The author insinuates he is or has been experiencing Dementia or Alzheimer’s, “The name of the author is the first to go,” 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 a person forever once obtained. Yet even that, the author states will be forgotten. Even a love poem that can have so much meaning to someone can be lost forever. When Collins states these things being lost he frustrated knowing that even things that are so simple in memory can be lost. Things people that would never forget are gone and there is no getting them back.
Allusion is used in this poem to emphasize the understanding of the poem to the reader. One example, “It has floated away down a dark mythological river whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall” Billy Collins chose his words carefully to create literacy device, known as allusion. The river that begins with an L that Collins mentions is a reference to a Greek mythological river in Hades. The story about the river is whoever drinks from it experiences memory loss. Collins blends subtle humor and irony into his poem very effectively. Apart from use of personifying his memory further emphasizes this and it is effective because he shows that our minds are not in our control. Once a person loses their memory it’s gone, there is no obtaining it again. He gives a special attention to his profession, the way he forgets pertinent things like dates and how simple things like the moon through the window gives him inspiration. The quadratic equation is a random fact that is personified packing its bag as if it’s leaving and never coming back. and won’t be missed that much. Collins also uses irony in the line “long ago you kissed the names of the nine muses goodbye,” because in Greek mythology, the nine muses were said to be the daughters of Mnemosyne who was the goddess of memory. Each daughter is said to be a Goddess to a form of artistic intelligence, poetry, lyrics and myths. When Collins refers to kissing the 9 muses goodbye he is referring to losing his ability as an artist.
While one person may see this as a poem for being depressive and angry, another person may look at this poem and see peace and bliss. One must ask why in his poem does he use such quotes for imagery. Quotes that would leave someone feeling at peace as if they belong there. These passages of imagery leave people sitting and looking back to wonder when they were last at peace. When they could just sit there and not have to worry about what is going to happen next or what solution they need to think of next. Quotes the author states may make a person believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel by using phrasing like “decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain”. This phrase can be translated to the next chapter in life, a more peaceful one. One peace of information is gone and that’s one step closer to paradise. A place where intelligence isn’t needed. Another fascinated phrase he expresses is “well on your way to oblivion where you will join those who have even forgotten how to swim or ride a bicycle”. This phrase is telling people that they’re not alone, there are more people suffering from these same conditions. When he states “to a fishing village where there are no phone” Collins is imagining a place of peace. A place with no contact to the outside world just him and nature. Where somebody can really be in touch with one’s self and be able to express how he truly feels. Using this expression makes everyone feel as if they could just sit there stare out into the water and all their worries are disappearing. When Collins uses the phrase “and even now as you memorize the order of the planets” he is expressing hope. Hope that even though he has lost old information new information can still be obtained. All these things stated in this poem are both good and bad. Anywhere from remember new information to forgetting old information. Haunted by his condition to forget information but also blessed in his ability to learn new information Collins is both frustrated at times and at peace at time. When Collins cannot remember something, he forces himself to learn something in its place. As Collins grows more aware of his condition he begins to accept it more and more, because of this he is allowing himself to become at peace with the condition. He is learning to adapt with the situation, instead of beating himself up over this terrible circumstance. Collins wants to show viewers that even when times are hard and even if a person’s memory goes or if they forget something or learn something new. A person is never alone and there are always way to adapt to one’s situation to overcome their situation and become at peace with what ever they may be going through.
Temporary lapses can be dealt with but as we all get older our memory will falter, that is a universal truth that can be devastating on a personal level.