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Published by: ryanh0303 on May 13, 2010
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Henry 1Ryan HenryMr. DamasoHonors English 2, Period 63 May 2010First Draft“Death is not the greatest loss in life. Thegreatestloss is what dies inside us whilewe live.”By Norman CousinsDeath, as bitter and dismal as it is, always occurs. From the second you are born you startcounting down your days to live. On September 11,
2001, 2,819 people unexpectedly had their life taken right before their eyes. Death is a common style on which art is formed thus making uswonder, why is it such a pertinent topic? The most logical reason is because everyone goesthrough it at some point. Throughout the art world, death takes a major role in the production of many pieces.Billy Collins has an open mind in all his poetry, but due to the conditions he has writtenin, a lot of his works deal with death. Billy Collins was the Poet Laureate during the time of theattacks of 9-11. Collins states, “Poems are unintentional responses to terrorism, in that theyhonor life” There hasn’t been any poets describing the distraught streets of America and Collinsis the first. (“Mischievous Laureate”, par. 9-11). He was writing during Septermber 11
andabout the repercussions from it. In “The Afterlife”, “Tomes” and “Picnic, Lightning” the idea of death is present but a little vague. While vividly portraying tragic situations, Billy Collins usesdiction and other poetic devices to illustrate the idea of death.Billy Collins has grown up and written his poetry during a significant time in our country.Billy Collins was born in New York City on March 22, 1941 (Alleva, par.1). Collins is a
Henry 2distinguished professor of English at Lehman College, City University of New York, where hehas taught for the past thirty years (“Cavalieri interviews Collins”, par. 34). Billy CollinsattendedArchbishop Stepinac High School in New York, and received his bachelors degree from theCollege of the Holy Crossin 1963. Collins later attended the University of California, Riversidewhere he received his M.A. and Ph.D in English (Billy Collins, Par. 2).Billy Collins is known for his rather morbid writings dealing with death, but on the other hand he has many humorous and creative poems. Billy Collins has many different styles of writings that are all different. Some of his poems are about death and others he just picked up a pen and wrote about what he saw. He became successful through his works before he was poetlaureate, and after he gained popularity he was named “America’s favorite poet” by BruceWeber, a writer for the New York Times (Billy Collins, Par. 1). Billy Collins has a lot of humor in his poems but at the same time he is very detailed in his word choice and he makes sad topicssuch as death more humorous. For the most part Billy Collins just writes straight from his mind,and doesn’t really write about experiences he has had except for in a few cases. One maininfluence dealing with his family was the death of his mom. These lead to the creation of his poem, “Tomes.”The time period in which Billy Collins wrote definitely changes the style and meaning of his poems.Collins was poet Laureate during September 11, 2001, so he got the full affectswriting poetry for the USA. The media was capturing families of victims on the side of the roads begging for assistance. It didn’t just affect the victims and the government; it affected everyUnited States citizen. Billy Collins noticed these affects on his country, and as poet laureate hewrote about them (“The Names”, par. 5-6). This is what mainly affected Billy Collins’s poetry.As stated earlier, Billy Collins uses diction and other techniques to vaguely portray deathor something nearly related. Through the use of descriptive words Billy Collins describes a scene
Henry 3of death in many of his poems. Because of his time in writing during September 11
he wrotesome morbid but wordy poems.The three poems I feel are all similarly related are; “The Afterlife”, “Picnic, Lightning”,and “Tomes” All of these poems have to do with death or something nearly related. “TheAfterlife” is an account of what all religions may think comes after their death. “Picnic,Lightning” is basically just a detailed account of how death is so un-expecting and may occur atany moment. And lastly, “Tomes” is talking about the death of his mom. The men who werecritiquing Collins’s poems are Ed Galens, Jason Gray, Frank Pool, and Richard Alleva.“The Afterlife” relates to the literary thread because this poem goes to in depth detail of what comes after you die.Essentially, there are two approaches to death, the tragic and thehumorous. Since Collins is a funny guy, and this poem is characterized by a lighter expressionand somewhat comedic as well. (Pool, Par 3).The rest just lie on their backs in their coffinswishing they could return so they could learn Italian or see the pyramids, or play some golf in alight rain. (Appendix A) This shows that this poem is talking about death and then it goes intowhat people may do in the afterlife. This poem focuses on mainly religious thoughts of theafterlife. This is just one of Collins’s couple poems discussing death.The next poem that relates to the literary thread is “Picnic, Lightning.” (Appendix B)Regarding this poem, Jason Gray said, “it is his way of building a moment, of sucking the reader into his narrative and swelling until at the end you had no idea that you would react so strongly”(Gray, par. 1). Gray says this because Collins has a way of making something that you can easilyget right to the point of stretched out and in depth. Collins uses all of his descriptive poetrydevices such as diction, personification, metaphors and similes to deeper explain the meaning of his poem. (Appendix E)Gray also states that Collins“makes connections and separations, bethey momentary or lifelong” (Gray, Par 5). An example of this would be in line 10 when Collins

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