Billy Collins is an American poet who was born in New York City in 1941. He is the author of several books of poetry, including The trouble with poemss and Sailing Alone Around the Room. His poem “Consolation” was published in 2002.
The poem starts with the speaker saying that he is sorry for the person he is writing to, but he can’t think of anything else to say. He goes on to say that the person should take comfort in the fact that they are not alone in their sorrow. The speaker then says that he himself has experienced loss and grief, and that he knows how it feels. He ends the poem by telling the person to take care of themselves and to remember that there are people who care about them.
In his poem “Consolation,” Billy Collins seeks to console himself after being unable to visit Italy the following summer. He makes a “consolation” for himself by reciting all of the drawbacks of traveling to another country teeming with history and art. His tone, on the other hand, leads one to believe that he has failed in convincing himself that staying at home is really better. The reader may infer that he is actually disconsolate; his efforts were in vain.
The poem is written in iambic pentameter, which gives it a flowing, almost conversational feel. The rhyme scheme is AABBCCDD, which also adds to the poem’s sense of being a light-hearted list. The poem’s structure creates a contrast between the content of the poem and the speaker’s tone. The poem’s content is sad and wistful, while the speaker’s tone is chipper and sarcastic. This contrast serves to highlight the speaker’s unsuccessful efforts at consolation.
The poem begins with the speaker listing all of the reasons why he should be happy that he won’t be travelling to Italy. He starts by saying that he won’t have to “worry about losing his passport” or “getting homesick.”
He also won’t have to deal with the “hassels” of travel, such as missed flights and lost luggage. He continues by saying that he won’t have to spend any money while he’s there, and he won’t have to deal with the language barrier. All of these things are genuine downsides to travelling, but the speaker lists them in such a way that it seems as though he is trying to convince himself that staying at home is a good thing.
The poem takes a turn in the third stanza, when the speaker begins listing all of the things he’ll miss out on by not travelling to Italy. He says that he won’t be able to see “the art of the Renaissance” or “the canals of Venice.” He won’t be able to eat “gelato by the Spanish Steps” or drink “wine in Tuscany.” All of these things are clearly things that the speaker wants to do, and his tone changes from one of convincing himself to stay at home, to one of regret and sadness.
The poem ends with the speaker saying that he will have to content himself with “the meager consolation” of his own country. He says that he will have to find solace in “the Rockies” and “the Grand Canyon.” These are both beautiful places, but they pale in comparison to the places the speaker was hoping to visit in Italy. The poem ends on a sad note, with the speaker resigned to the fact that he won’t be able to travel this year.
His snarky tone throughout the poem, as well as his choice of words, make him seem very unhappy about missing the trip, especially when he starts the poem with “how pleasant it is…” He then describes Italy’s “torrid hill towns.” Collins appears to be exaggerating the town in order to display his real feelings about not traveling. He gives it the sense that visiting Italy’s towns would be a chore because they would be extremely hot and weary.
Furthermore, he talks about the “gondolas on the Grand Canal” which could be interpreted in different ways. Some people might see this as a romantic image while others, like Collins in this poem, might find it to be annoying because of how famous and common the gondolas are. It is clear that Collins wants the reader to know that he is uninterested in what Italy has to offer based on his descriptions.
The poem takes an interesting turn when Collins begins to talk about his book on Keats. He opens up about how much he admires Keats and how he wishes he could have been like him. This part of the poem seems more personal than the beginning where he was mocking Italy. It is almost as if he is using Keats as a form of consolation for not being able to go on the trip. He speaks highly of Keats and his work which shows how much he looks up to him.
Collins even goes as far as to say that he would “trade places with him in a second” if he could. This poem is a great example of how someone can be consoled by something they are passionate about. Just because Collins couldn’t go to Italy, doesn’t mean he can’t find happiness in other things like reading and writing about poetry.
In the end, the poem takes another turn when Collins begins talking about death. He starts off by saying “Death is always with us” which is a very true statement. We all know that death is inevitable and that it will happen to us one day. Collins then goes on to say “like the wind” which is a interesting choice of words.
The wind is something that we can’t see but we can feel it’s presence. It’s also something that is constantly moving and changing. This is similar to death in the sense that we can’t see it coming but we know it’s there. Furthermore, the wind is always around us just like death is always with us. It’s a constant presence in our lives whether we like it or not.
This poem is a great example of how someone can find consolation in things other than what they originally set out to do. Just because Collins didn’t get to go to Italy, doesn’t mean he can’t find happiness in other things. This poem also shows how death is always with us and how it can be a constant presence in our lives.