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Damaso Honors English 2, Period 6 3 May 2010 First Draft “Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” By Norman Cousins Death, as bitter and dismal as it is, always occurs. From the second you are born you start counting 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 us wonder, why is it such a pertinent topic? The most logical reason is because everyone goes through 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 written in, a lot of his works deal with death. Billy Collins was the Poet Laureate during the time of the attacks of 9-11. Collins states, “Poems are unintentional responses to terrorism, in that they honor life” There hasn’t been any poets describing the distraught streets of America and Collins is the first. (“Mischievous Laureate”, par. 9-11). He was writing during Septermber 11th and about 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 uses diction 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 2 distinguished professor of English at Lehman College, City University of New York, where he has taught for the past thirty years (“Cavalieri interviews Collins”, par. 34). Billy Collins attended Archbishop Stepinac High School in New York, and received his bachelors degree from the College of the Holy Cross in 1963. Collins later attended the University of California, Riverside where 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 poet laureate, and after he gained popularity he was named “America’s favorite poet” by Bruce Weber, 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 topics such 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 main influence 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 affects writing 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 every United States citizen. Billy Collins noticed these affects on his country, and as poet laureate he wrote 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 death or something nearly related. Through the use of descriptive words Billy Collins describes a scene
Henry 3 of death in many of his poems. Because of his time in writing during September 11th he wrote some 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. “The Afterlife” 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 at any moment. And lastly, “Tomes” is talking about the death of his mom. The men who were critiquing 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 the humorous. Since Collins is a funny guy, and this poem is characterized by a lighter expression and somewhat comedic as well. (Pool, Par 3).The rest just lie on their backs in their coffins wishing they could return so they could learn Italian or see the pyramids, or play some golf in a light rain. (Appendix A) This shows that this poem is talking about death and then it goes into what people may do in the afterlife. This poem focuses on mainly religious thoughts of the afterlife. 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 easily get right to the point of stretched out and in depth. Collins uses all of his descriptive poetry devices 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, be they momentary or lifelong” (Gray, Par 5). An example of this would be in line 10 when Collins
Henry 4 writes, “And we know the message can be delivered from within. The heart, no valentine, decides to quit after lunch, the power shut off like a switch” (Appendix B). This shows that at any moment the heart may power down, obviously resulting in the death of the human being. This poem uses poetry devices to vividly display how quickly death may occur. The last poem that I felt closely relates to the others through my literary thread is “Tomes.” This poem relates to the literary thread because Collins describes many things occurring, but it isn’t till the last stanza that you realize it has to do with the death of his mother. (Appendix C). As Richard Alleva says, nothing is more vivid, especially the final crisis, death (Alleva, Par 20). In the last stanza of Collins’s poem he writes, “even though it never mentions my mother, now that I think of her again, who only last year rolled off the edge of the earth in her electric bed.” This shows how this poem is about his mother’s death, but we didn’t know his mother died until this last stanza. The literary thread clearly relates to Collins’s poems, but it relates to other art pieces as well. The first connection to art I saw was with “Tears of Heaven” by Eric Clapton (Appendix F). This song is about the death of his four year old son which made Eric traumatized for many years to follow. I feel this song lyrically relates to “Tomes” by Billy Collins because they both talk about the death of a family member but neither blatantly says what happened. Clapton has mourned like a man steeped in the hard-won wisdom of the baby boom: he has sought support through religion, therapy and Alcoholics Anonymous, whose meetings he has been attending, he says, for several years (Leerhsen, Par 5.). The Eric Clapton song “Tears in Heaven” is a tribute to Connor Clapton, Eric’s preschool son who died in an accident in 1991 (Mikkelson, Par 1.). This relates to the literary thread because it describes death but doesn’t blatantly say what happened. This song speaks of the tragedies people go through when others die and since Collins was writing during a time of tragic death, this song goes hand and hand with the literary thread. “I
Henry 5 must be strong, and carry on Cause I know I don't belong Here in heaven”. This little clip of the song describes how Clapton must move on after the death of his song, and he doesn’t belong in heaven yet. This relates to the death of Collins’s mom because he describes her in her death bed, but both of these pieces are very discreet in how they get the message across. Both wrote in late 20th century and early 21st century making them seemingly alike. After the attacks on September 11th there were several films made about it. One of these films produced was World Trade Center directed by Oliver Stone. This goes hand and hand with my literary thread because the attacks where unexpected, but many events led up to the actual attack. Oliver Stone saw an opportunity to make an amazing production since he has become known as a master of controversial subjects and a legendary film maker. This film was released August 9, 2006. This is based off of a true story that we all know about, the attacks on the World Trade Centers in New York. Due to the fact that it is a movie, it is very detailed while discussing unexpected deaths. Billy Collins uses descriptive techniques to describe a death in a multitude of his pieces. The film “World Trade Center” is similar to Billy Collins’s poems because it is a very in depth production of deaths that occurred. This movie was released five years after the attacks on 9/11 occurred and it is obviously based off of a true story. An example of how detailed and descriptive this production is was when Dave Karnes, military general in this movie, said, “It's like God made a curtain with the smoke, shielding us from what we're not yet ready to see”(Imdb). This movie ultimately relates to Collins’s life because Collins wrote during this time period and about the attacks on 9/11. As is evident, many of Billy Collins’s poems relate to other art pieces dealing with death and the tragic time of September 11th and the Gulf War. Since death occurs in everyone’s life, why not discuss it. Billy Collins uses diction and other techniques to vaguely describe death.
Henry 6 Death is present in everyone’s lives and from the day you are born, you are unfortunately dying. Through attentive detail one can hover above the message being sent, and with the correct technique you can produce a common theme in just one or two phrases. Everyone dies so you might as well talk about it. Death doesn’t always have to be morbid because who knows, maybe after you die, you squeeze into an animal body and live again…
Appendix A “The Afterlife” by Billy Collins They're moving off in all imaginable directions, each according to his own private belief, and this is the secret that silent Lazarus would not reveal: that everyone is right, as it turns out. you go to the place you always thought you would go, the place you kept lit in an alcove in your head. Some are being shot into a funnel of flashing colors into a zone of light, white as a January sun. Others are standing naked before a forbidding judge who sits with a golden ladder on one side, a coal chute on the other.
Henry 7 Some have already joined the celestial choir and are singing as if they have been doing this forever, while the less inventive find themselves stuck in a big air conditioned room full of food and chorus girls. 15 Some are approaching the apartment of the female God, a woman in her forties with short wiry hair and glasses hanging from her neck by a string. With one eye she regards the dead through a hole in her door. There are those who are squeezing into the bodies of animals--eagles and leopards--and one trying on the skin of a monkey like a tight suit, ready to begin another life in a more simple key, while others float off into some benign vagueness, little units of energy heading for the ultimate elsewhere. There are even a few classicists being led to an underworld by a mythological creature with a beard and hooves. He will bring them to the mouth of the furious cave guarded over by Edith Hamilton and her three-headed dog. The rest just lie on their backs in their coffins wishing they could return so they could learn Italian or see the pyramids, or play some golf in a light rain. They wish they could wake in the morning like you and stand at a window examining the winter trees, every branch traced with the ghost writing of snow. Appendix B “Picnic, Lightning” by Billy Collins It is possible to be struck by a meteor or a single-engine plane while reading in a chair at home. Pedestrians are flattened by safes falling from rooftops mostly within the panels of the comics, but still, we know it is possible, as well as the flash of summer lightning, the thermos toppling over, spilling out on the grass. And we know the message can be delivered from within. The heart, no valentine, decides to quit after lunch, the power shut off like a switch, or a tiny dark ship is
Henry 8 15 unmoored into the flow of the body's rivers, the brain a monastery, defenseless on the shore. This is what I think about when I shovel compost into a wheelbarrow, and when I fill the long flower boxes, then press into rows the limp roots of red impatiens -- the instant hand of Death always ready to burst forth from the sleeve of his voluminous cloak. Then the soil is full of marvels, bits of leaf like flakes off a fresco, red-brown pine needles, a beetle quick to burrow back under the loam. Then the wheelbarrow is a wilder blue, the clouds a brighter white, and all I hear is the rasp of the steel edge against a round stone, the small plants singing with lifted faces, and the click of the sundial as one hour sweeps into the next.
Appendix C “Tomes” by Billy Collins There is a section in my library for death and another for Irish history, a few shelves for the poetry of China and Japan, and in the center a row of imperturbable reference books, the ones you can turn to anytime, when the night is going wrong or when the day is full of empty promise. I have nothing against the thin monograph, the odd query, a note on the identity of Chekhov's dentist, but what I prefer on days like these is to get up from the couch, pull down The History of the World, and hold in my hands a book
Henry 9 15 containing nearly everything and weighing no more than a sack of potatoes, eleven pounds, I discovered one day when I placed it on the black, iron scale my mother used to keep in her kitchen, the device on which she would place a certain amount of flour, a certain amount of fish. Open flat on my lap under a halo of lamplight, a book like this always has a way of soothing the nerves, quieting the riotous surf of information that foams around my waist even though it never mentions the silent labors of the poor, the daydreams of grocers and tailors, or the faces of men and women alone in single roomseven though it never mentions my mother, now that I think of her again, who only last year rolled off the edge of the earth in her electric bed, in her smooth pink nightgown the bones of her fingers interlocked, her sunken eyes staring upward beyond all knowledge, beyond the tiny figures of history, some in uniform, some not, marching onto the pages of this incredibly heavy book.
Henry 15 “Tears in Heaven” by Eric Clapton, Single (1992) Would you know my name If I saw you in heaven Will it be the same If I saw you in heaven I must be strong, and carry on Cause I know I don't belong Here in heaven
Would you hold my hand If I saw you in heaven Would you help me stand If I saw you in heaven I'll find my way, through night and day Cause I know I just can't stay Here in heaven Time can bring you down Time can bend your knee Time can break your heart Have you begging please Begging please (instrumental) Beyond the door There's peace I'm sure. And I know there'll be no more... Tears in heaven Would you know my name If I saw you in heaven Will it be the same
Henry 16 If I saw you in heaven I must be strong, and carry on Cause I know I don't belong Here in heaven Cause I know I don't belong Here in heaven
Appendix G “World Trade Center” Oliver Stone (2006)
Appendix H “Picnic, Lightning” by Billy Collins It is possible to be struck by a meteor or a single-engine plane while reading in a chair at home. Pedestrians are flattened by safes falling from rooftops mostly within the panels of the comics, but still, we know it is possible, as well as the flash of summer lightning, the thermos toppling over, spilling out on the grass. And we know the message can be delivered from within. The heart, no valentine, decides to quit after
Henry 18 lunch, the power shut off like a switch, or a tiny dark ship is unmoored into the flow of the body's rivers, the brain a monastery, defenseless on the shore. This is what I think about when I shovel compost into a wheelbarrow, and when I fill the long flower boxes, then press into rows the limp roots of red impatiens -- the instant hand of Death always ready to burst forth from the sleeve of his voluminous cloak. Then the soil is full of marvels, bits of leaf like flakes off a fresco, red-brown pine needles, a beetle quick to burrow back under the loam. Then the wheelbarrow is a wilder blue, the clouds a brighter white, and all I hear is the rasp of the steel edge against a round stone, the small plants singing with lifted faces, and the click of the sundial as one hour sweeps into the next. “The Shadow of Death” by Ryan Henry After Billy Collins One may get hit by a boulder or a low flying helicopter while laying in a meadow. It is altogether possible to be smothered by a couch, falling from an apartment window, yet we still know that the presence of the shadow of death is imminent. One never knows when they make take their last breath or sail the last ship, yet when that clock strikes that certain hour all will be ready. It is sudden and sometimes unexpected. Cold and sometimes harsh, yet it is always there and it creeps up like a shadow in a dark alley. As I sow the weeds I think of the struggles around me and the shape the dark lord may take as it swoops by, day or night. As day turns to night I hear the wind blow through the air and who knows the next time the
Henry 19 fist of death will strike someone, dead in their tracks.
Works Cited "The Afterlife." Poetry for Students. Ed. David A. Galens. Vol. 18. Detroit: Gale, 2003. 3849. Poetry for Students. Web. 26 Mar. 2010.<http://go.galegroup.com/>. Alleva, Richard. "A MAJOR MINOR POET: Billy Collins isn't just funny." Commonweal 129.1 (2002): 21. Literature Resource Center. Web. 26 Mar. 2010. <http://go.galegroup.com/>. “Billy Collins.” Academy of American Poets. Poets.org. 1997. Web. 25 March 2010. <www.poets.org.>. Collins, Billy, and Grace Cavalieri. "Grace Cavalieri Interviews Poet Laureate Billy Collins." Pembroke Magazine 35 (2003): 252-269. Rpt. in Poetry Criticism. Ed. Michelle Lee. Vol. 68. Detroit: Gale, 2006. Literature Resource Center. Web. 26 Mar. 2010. <http://go.galegroup.com/>. Collins, Billy. “Poetry 180.” loc.gov. Web. 25 March 2010. <www.loc.gov>.
Collins, Billy, and Laura Secor. "Billy Collins: Mischievous Laureate." Mother Jones 27.2 (Mar.-Apr. 2002): 84-85. Rpt. in Poetry Criticism. Ed. Michelle Lee. Vol. 68. Detroit: Gale, 2006. Literature Resource Center. Web. 26 Mar. 2010. <http://go.galegroup.com/>. Gray, Jason. "Picnic, Lightning." Prairie Schooner 75.1 (2001): 189. Literature Resource Center. Web. 11 Apr. 2010. <http://go.galegroup.com/>. Mikkelson, Barbara. “Tears in Heaven.”snopes.com. Urban Legends Reference Pages. 2007. Web. 21 April 2010. <http://www.snopes.com/music/songs/tears.asp>. Leerhsen, Charles. “His Saddest Song.” Newsweek. Newsweek.com. 1992. Web. 21 April 2010. <http://www.newsweek.com/id/118709>.
PEER RESPONSE After you read and annotate a student paper for CONTENT, write a long (10-15 sentence) paragraph in which you mention three positive aspects of the paper (and why?) and three places for improvement (and why?). Be abnormally specific. Also, be sure to cover the areas below (including a rating of each section of the paper).
a. Weak arguments, paragraphs, transitions? b. The writer lacks citations and evidence from reliable sources c. The writer’s paper is of varying quality? Rate each section 1 (low) to 5 (high) i. Introduction _____ ii.Biographical and Historical Context _____ iii.Literary Thread in Three Poems _____ iv.Art Connections _____ v.Conclusion _____ a. Paste this paragraph and rating at the end of the paper for your writing partner
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