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The Lanyard Billy Collins (DOC)

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					POETRY OUT LOUD Poetic Analysis
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The Lanyard - Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that‟s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.
Title of Poem: The Lanyard
                Commentary                    Concrete Detail
Subject         The poet is commenting        She gave me life and milk from her breasts; Here is a
                on the important              breathing body and a beating heart,
                relationship of mother        strong legs, bones and teeth,
                and son; the selflessness and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
                of mothers; and his           and here, I said, is the lanyard;
                unwavering gratitude for      this useless, worthless thing I wove
                all that she gave him.        out of boredom would be enough to make us even
Paraphrase      Out of boredom, the poet is randomly searching through the dictionary where he stumbles
                across the word „lanyard‟ which brings back a vivid memory. He remembers making a red
                and white lanyard for his mother at a summer camp. This reminds him of all the things his
                mother has and did do for him; giving him life, healing his wounds, taking care of him
                when he sick, cooking for him and teaching him all that he needed to be successful in the
                world. He comes to the realization that it is not important that the lanyard could never
                repay his mother for all the things she did for him, but that she would consider them even
                for this simple lanyard. His mother would never expect anything in return and that is why
                he loves her even more.
Language
                Alliteration                        She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
                                                       and I gave her a lanyard.
                                                       She nursed me in many a sick room,
                                                       lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
                                                       laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
                                                       and then led me out into the airy light- repeating all
                                                       the l words to emphasize „lanyard‟
                                                    Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
                                                       strong legs, bones and teeth—repeating the B words
                                                       to keep the rhythm heartbeat like
                                                    out of boredom would be enough to make us even-
                Rhythm                                 last word goes off the rhythm to emphasize the life
                                                       lesson
Imagery         The beginning of the          Moving as if underwater; I was ricocheting slowly
                poem creates an image
                of the poet floating
                around boredom
Tone            Rueful—sad; regretful         rueful admission; I was as sure as a boy could be
                Sarcasm/Irony                 that this useless, worthless thing I wove
                                              out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

Speaker           The Poet- the poet‟s         The other day I was ricocheting slowly
                  poems are usually about      off the blue walls of this room,
                  himself- the typewriter      moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
                  reveals it‟s probably his
                  office
Theme Statement: (Title, Author, Life Lesson)
In “The Lanyard” by Billy Collins, the author reminds us not to take our mothers for granted, to appreciate
all that they do for us because they expect so little in return.

Personal Connection:
This poem reminds me off all my friends who are terrific mothers; who get so excited about the little things
their children do for them like macaroni art. I appreciate Collins fresh perspective and using such a little
thing—finding a word in the dictionary—to spark a poem.
                                                                                  Mary Contrary
                                                                                Poetry Analysis
                                                                                 LA 10 Period 7
                                                                               October 12, 2010


                         Looking Inside Billy Collin‟s “The Lanyard”


       Billy Collin‟s “The Lanyard” takes us on trip--from the writer‟s office, to his

youthful summer camp, to meet his mother and back to the present. Along the way, he

reveals a truth about all mother and child relationships—we can never repay our

mothers for all that they do. Collins uses several poetic elements including alliteration,

imagery and the rhythm of the poem to emphasis his theme.

       “The Lanyard” describes a time when out of boredom, the poet, the speaker in

this poem, is randomly searching through the dictionary where he stumbles across the

word “lanyard.” This simple word brings back powerful memories. He remembers

making a red and white lanyard for his mother at a summer camp. This reminds him of

all the things his mother has and did do for him; giving him life, healing his wounds,

taking care of him when he sick, cooking for him and teaching him all that he needed to

be successful in the world. He comes to the realization that it is not important that the

lanyard could never repay his mother for all the things she did for him, but that she

would consider them even for this simple lanyard. His mother would never expect

anything in return and that is why he loves her even more.

       The poetic elements used in this poem are simple, but effective in emphasizing

the poem‟s theme. The poem begins with vivid imagery of the poet, “ricocheting slowly/

Moving as if underwater” (Collins 1-3) describing his boredom or even work avoidance.

Why else would someone pick up the dictionary to read? Later in the poem, the poet

emphasizes the word “lanyard” by alliterating the “l” with “life,” “lifted,” “lips,” and “light.”
He again uses alliteration, this time with the letter “b” to simulate a beating heart:

“breathing,” “body,” “beating,” and “bones.” The most effective poetic element is in the

last line when the poet ends with the word “even” which is off the syllable count. This

word makes the poet‟s thematic point and deserves this emphasis.

       The poet‟s theme is commenting on the important relationship of mother and son,

the selflessness of mothers, and his unwavering gratitude for all that she gave him. He

supports this with the sad and regretful tone. He knows he can never do or say enough

to thank his mother. He writes, “She gave me life and milk from her breasts/ a breathing

body and a beating heart” (19, 31) and all he could give her in return was the lanyard.

The reader can tell he really wants to give her so much more.

       By sharing this poem, the poet helps us to see the women in our own lives with

new eyes. I am reminded of my fabulous friends who are excellent mothers and all that

they sacrafice for their children. The macaroni art that they covet, or quick hug and

thank you that brightens their days. Through his use of poetic techniques and choosing

such unexpected inspiration, we, the readers, are able to fully appreciate his simple

message: Love your mother.

				
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