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Published by Shauna Sinyard

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Published by: Shauna Sinyard on May 07, 2011
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Sinyard 1Shauna SinyardMark Hall, Ph
 Assignment 21 March 2011Angels and War: Analyzing Billy Collins
Billy Collins’ poetry plants a seed of understanding into the minds of those who read it
 His use of powerful imagery and witty irony forces the reader to think past the surface level andindulge in a world of deeper comprehension
His conversational tone allows the reader to movepast the stanzas and interpret the true messages of his poetry
In “Building with Its Face Blown Off,” Collins personifies
an apartment that has beenbombed out and exposed to the world
He compares the “blue and white striped wallpaper of asecond story bedroom” to “wearing only its striped pajamas,” making the readers feel as if the
apartment had lost its inherent right to privacy
He also alludes to the bathroom feeling
“embarrassed” at its nakedness and untidiness caused by the explosion
This powerful imagery,of the destroyed apartment paired with its personification showcases the fragility of countriesplagued by war
It allows us to feel sorry for the building, more so even than feeling sorry forthe inhabitants of the apartment; the building is vulnerable, exposed, and raw
In an interviewwith Michael Meyer, Collins speaks about the inspiration for the poem, saying that although thepoem has a blatantly political undertone, he usually shies away from that kind of writing
says that “before poetry can be political, it must be personal” and that the actual inspiration for 
Comment [1]:
his poetry or the man himself?
Comment [2]:
which are?but I do like this idea oftranscending the words.
Comment [3]:
Comment [4]:
really? I thought it was more aboutthe absence of humanity/theinhabitants. this may add to the
disengaged feeling...its’ almost
humanized in its’ humanization.
Sinyard 2the poem was a picture in a newspaper of a bombed out house in Baghdad
In the next stanza, the speaker compares the blown out apartment to a stage, with “no
characters, no dialogue, no beginning, middle and end
There are two vital components of 
First and foremost, theater must be live
In this sense, Collins is correct in comparingthe bombed-out apartment to a stage
What is more live than real life? The second component
of theater is that there must be an audience, which according to the poem “neighbors and soldiers
poke around in the rubble below
However, without a play to perform, without the performers
 or the dialogue, this building is merely a reminder of the fragility of life to those who see it
Itmakes a statement that an entire play could not
In the last two stanzas of the poem, Collinssends a powerful
message about ignorance and indifference
The stark contrast between thelovely couple having a picnic, complete with wine, bread, cheese and olives and the raw,exposed building creates a tension for the reader
Here, irony plays a part in eliciting a powerfulresponse in the reader, a disdain for those who are privileged enough to live in a country that
have daily bombings that destroy entire apartment buildings
In the first stanza of “Questions
about Angels,” Billy Collins muses on the mockingquestion, “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” This phrase was used to mock 
medieval angelology and those who studied it, namely Thomas Aquinas
Contemporarily, thephrase serves a metaphor for wasting time debating topics of no practical value
In this poem,the speaker plays a game with the reader; he challenges us to ask the deeper questions about life
masked by the metaphor of angels
These questions are masked by the imagery and metaphor of 
Comment [5]:
Is this necessary to your argument?
interesting tidbit but if you’re
going to use it, actually tie it toyour central idea.
Comment [6]:
again de-humanized
Comment [7]:
Comment [8]:
yeah! this is an argument!
Comment [9]:
is it really disdain for them? orfor ourselves since we all do this?
Comment [10]:
ok good. but what IS important? andwhy do humans shirk away from thehard questions?
Sinyard 3
an angel’s daily life
“Do they fly through God’s body and come out singing? Do they swing
like children from the hinges of the spirit world saying their names backwards andforwards
What about their sleeping habits, the fabric of their robes, their diet of unfiltered
divine light?” The speaker asks the questions that he feels are not traditionally asked
Thespeaker of the poem implies that their train of thought transcends that of the medievaltheologians
In this next stanza, the speaker ask 
s “If an angel delivered the mail/would he arrive
in a blinding rush of wings or would he just assume/ the appearance of the regular mailman and/ 
whistle up the driveway reading the postcards?In this stanza, the speaker is speaking for the
everyday angels of the world, the people who are not ethereal and holy spirits, but those who are just regular men and women, spreading angelic thoughts to the world
The phrase “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” implies that there are
billions of angels, all of which can fit in the tiniest bit of space
The speaker of this poem doesnot like the implication of an infinite amount of angels and uses one simple conjunction tochange the thought process of the reader: but
Instead of millions, billions, or an infinite amount
of angels, the speaker suggests there is only one: “one female angel dancing alone in her 
stocking feet, a small jazz combo working in the background
Here, the musician, who has
been playing for the angel forever, is getting tired and restless of entertaining the angel, who hasbeen dancing eternally
 In both of these poems, Billy Collins uses an informal kind of diction
He takes on aconversational tone that invites the reader to make a connection with the speaker of the poem
 The poetry is relatable and informal
Collins uses sarcasm and satire to highlight or poke fun at
Comment [11]:
what do you mean here bytranscends? I (maybe incorrectly)thought he was making fun of thesequestions. Collins kind of adopted
a “holier than thou art” tone of
superiority perhaps.
Comment [12]:
I thought he was just making morefun. But I can see thisinterpretation.
Comment [13]:
The past two paragraphs are justsumming up the poem. Add someanalysis here.
Comment [14]:
this is starting to get redundant.

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