Forgetfulness Billy Collins Analysis

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“Forgetfulness” by Billy Collins
Naturally, life is a continuous cycle of experience and learning. Yet often times so much is buried in our lives that we fail to remember or recall what we have learned. Memories that range from miniscule facts to important emotions can often leave unknowingly from our mind. Billy Collin’s “Forgetfulness” shows how memories are delicate and fragile, and that the process of forgetting is one that is nonchalant. Billy Collins effectively blends subtle humor and irony with a dramatic tone shift to explain that ideas and facts that people think are important flee the mind, showing that nothing good can last. Although he refers to memories in a lighthearted, thoughtful manner, the poem gradually shifts (just as memories fade) to a more serious and solemn tone. Collins does this to advise the reader that memories do have an importance in one’s life, although forgetting them is bound to happen, memories leave the mind and float away, down a “dark mythological river.” “Forgetfulness” though consistently crafty, leaves the reader on a grave note reminding the reader that forgetting is a natural part of life that everyone must go through. As humans age, memories drift “out of a love poem,” and can leave not only one’s conscious mind but can leave an empty feeling in oneself. Collins uses images that one would not expect to use when discussing the degradation of memory. He also uses images that are seemingly unconnected to show the process of memory loss. The thought of memories retiring to a village is comical and clever and this lighthearted tone paints forgetfulness in an optimistic light. Forgetfulness occurs smoothly, a process impeding but not urgent. Each image that Collins represents forms a tranquil scene when he mentions memories such as “long ago you kissed the nine Muses goodbye...” Rather than portraying memory being forgotten as tragedy, Collins almost ridicules people who are on their “way to oblivion.” In this way, forgetfulness is shown as a process that will happen to anyone at any time in his or her life, whether or not the memory was even important. When Collins addresses memory in stanza six, “floating away down a dark mythological river,” it seems that the reader can get a sense of drifting his or her own mind into a darker place where forgetfulness is thought as something less joyful than “memories you used to harbor…to a little fishing village where there are no phones,” but rather something more solemn and gloomy. Collin again mentions the idea of memories drifting when he says “no wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.” The poem’s course of gradual forgetting continues to process as the memories first begin to float away in a river and eventually the moon completely “drift(s) out of a love poem”, where moon is a metaphor used to represent memories. It can be implied that important memories such as feelings of loved ones will gradually leave you, and that nothing good can last. Collin’s wittiness and nonchalant approach is observed in the overall tone of the poem which manifests lightheartedness with a dark undertone. He uses this lighthearted tone because the he explains the things that have forgotten in a scattered and seemingly unconnected way. Yet at the same time Collins is very thoughtful about the things that were once forgotten and the things he is trying to remember. The optimistic subtle tone is found directly in the simple accusations that he makes to the audience, evoking emotions when saying something such as “little fishing village where there are no phones.” The tone of the last stanza shifts from casual and joyful scenes to more serious and hopeless ones. The beginning of the poem foreshadows the upcoming tonal shift, saying that after the plot will come a “heartbreaking conclusion.” The gradual shift begins to occur when he says “it has floated away down a dark mythological river” and...
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