Analysis Of The Poem 'The Names' By Billy Collins

Decent Essays

In the poem “The Names,” by Billy Collins, the speaker is calmly recalling people’s last names alphabetically as he notices them wherever he goes. At first it seems as though he is playing a game to see how many names he can think of. After reading the whole poem several times, it becomes clear that he is referring to people who died on September 11th. Collins uses imagery, a serious tone, and similes throughout the poem to show appreciation for the memory of the victims that died that tragic day. In the first stanza, it is established that the poem is written in the first person, when “I” is referring to the speaker, which illustrates this person’s point of view concerning the tragedy of 9/11 during a whole day of events. …show more content…

The speaker recollects in line 9, “Names slipping around a watery bend,” when he envisions small creatures near the edge of a river or lake falling into the water representing loss of lives as they were plunging from the burning twin towers. Within the poem, the speaker visually describes places where individuals’ names were displayed in respect for loss of life of 9/11. In line 21, he says: “I see you spelled out on storefront windows.” As he is going about in the city, he recognizes victims’ names on store windows that store-owners placed to honor those people. He recalls someone using sign language to spell out the name of her missing relative from the attack. He list places where he has seen names of 9/11 victims like in a picture stuck on a mailbox, sewn into a fabric or shirt, and on vivid building canopies representing the memory of those lost souls as a result of that tragic day. With the quote “Twenty-six willows on the banks of a stream” (10), the speaker is referring to the twenty-six letters of the alphabet, which he uses to identify actual last names of the victims within the poem. Unfortunately, two of the names are misspelled and some names have more than one person with the same last name according to a complete list of victims posted on the Internet. He compares these names with fallen raindrops as they smoothly follow each other until you lose sight of them like the dead victims from the twin towers that

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