Many of the poems presented in the book by Clugston put a very touching impression on me. The way the writers used the words and the themes they addressed were very modern and important. All of the poets possess fantastic talent and know how to reach the heart and the mind of the reader. The one that touched me the most was “You, Reader” by Billy Collins, poet laureate of the United States in the years of 2001, 2002 and 2003 (Clugston 2014).
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I admire this work as a masterpiece of poetry from the professional point of view. By means of using just written speech Collins shows that his invisible touch and glance can easily reach out and engage the reader turning the poem into a personal conversation. The poem called “You, Reader” written by Billy Collins is an ultimate demonstration of the literary power of the poet’s words and the effect they are able to produce on the reader, using a combination language, setting and content the author achieves the deep personal communication effect.
The language Collins employs in his poem is filled with direct addresses. Usually, when a reader comes across an address towards an unidentified “you” in a poem it immediately makes them wonder, whom this poem was written to and with what purpose (Scanlon & Engbers 2014). Billy Collins answers this silent question right in the title of his poem making it clear that he addresses the reader of his work. This way the languages of the poem creates an effect of a one-on-one conversation between the reader and the author and increases the feeling of the poet’s personal presence during his monologue, which is extremely engaging and makes the reader personally involved in the contents of the poem.
The poet uses matter of fact key in his work, making the communication with the reader seem very usual, as if the two people knew each other, even though they are standing on the different sides of the poem and have never met before. As a result, the reader, who is actually addressed by the words printed on the paper, feels the actual presence of another mind and another voice (McGrath 2013).
The setting of the poem is very detailed. Collins mentions the bowl with pears on his table, the salt and pepper shakers, windows and rain behind them, ivy wallpaper and a goldfish in a tank. Introducing all of these details into the poem Collins enriches the voice of the author in the poem, makes the narrator more tangible, more person-like. He has a home, has wallpaper with ivy leaves on it, and a pet fish.
The description of the settings is designed to make the reader and the poem more alike and supports the mood of the matter of fact conversation. Basically, the simple image of a kitchen, where the poet is addressing his reader from adds the feeling of calmness, peace and comfort and also brings the author closer to the reader. The two become participants. The poem is so engaging that gradually it makes the reader a part of the description, a character in the contents of the work.
In the content of his poem Billy Collins is focused on creating various and multiple similarities between himself as the author and the person, who is reading his work. In the first lines of the poem Collins wonders what the reader was going to feel after realizing that these lines could have been written by him, emphasizing that there is no difference between the author and the reader and mentioning that both of them have a kitchen, both of them from time to time wake up early on a rainy day and start thinking about different things.
The author says that it does not take much to take a pen and paper and write these lines, describing every object around. This way the author emphasizes the simplicity of his poem and the charm of being present and conscious and noticing the world around in all of its small images such as the clock on the wall and the sound of the radio.
The magic of “You, Reader” by Billy Collins is in its deep penetration of the reader’s reality. The effect is achieved and stimulated by means of employing various literary elements such as language, setting and contents. All of these elements are directed at creating an impression of personal contact between the reader and the author of the poem. The language of the work is filled with direct addresses, turning the poem into an act of communication.
The detailed description of the setting is used in order to personify the unknown narrator, make him as real as possible, make him tangible. Finally, the content of the poem is also oriented at the simplicity and similarity of the realities of the author and the reader in order to bring the two closer. As a result, a poem obtains something like a 3D character, it becomes tactile, physical, it penetrates the reader’s surroundings, speaks to them and makes the realities of the reader and the poet mere together.
Clugston, R. W. (2014). Journey into literature (2nd ed.). San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
McGrath, B. (2013). The Poetics of Unremembered Acts: Reading, Lyric, Pedagogy. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.
Scanlon, M. & Engbers, C. (2014). Poetry and Dialogism: Hearing Over. Basingstoke, United Kingdom: Palgrave MacMillan.