The Poem Forgetfulness by Billy Collins is about the nature of forgetting things. The speaker of the poem is someone who is suffering from forgetfulness. I get the feeling that this is a person who is getting older. The speaker is addressing everyone who will one day get old and is telling them that they will start to forget many things. I believe that the speaker is warning the audience about memory loss later in life and memory loss in general.
The title Forgetfulness is what the subject of the poem is all about. None of the words in this poem lack meaning each was picked carefully to create a metaphor to forgetting a memory that was once so fresh in your mind. The words in this poem were very well chosen and help give the reader a visual of what losing a memory is like. Collins writes, “and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,/ something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,/the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay./” I think everyone can relate to this quote. It seems that every time we learn something new, we forget something that we used to know. For example, I just took a cumulative Calculus exam the other day. I got an A on every test throughout the semester, but when it came down to remembering stuff that I learned earlier in the semester I had to re-teach myself a few things. I believe that happens to everyone if we don’t go over things that we have learned or review dates we have memorized.
This poem is well organized. Each sentence builds on to the idea of the last sentence. There is use of figurative language throughout Forgetfulness. There is use of cliché, “…Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye/”. Another example of figurative language used in Forgetfulness is the use of the hyperbole. The hyperbole can be found when Collins writes, “…Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,/ it is not poised on the tip of your tongue, /not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen. /It has floated away down a dark mythological river/…”. Personification can also be found in this poem. “…and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag/…” This means that the quadratic equation is a part of your memory that has been forgotten. Collins writes about a dark mythological river known as the ‘river L’. I did not know what he meant so I did my own research and found that Collins is referring to the River Lethe. This river is one of the five rivers in Hades and it is the river of forgetfulness. I thought that was an interesting part of the poem that some people would not catch.
The theme of this poem is simple, clear, and is the title of the story: Forgetfulness. The whole poem is built around this idea. This was overall a good poem. I enjoyed the humor and straight forward approach that Billy Collins used.