Wednesday, April 23, 2008

River of forgetfulness

The day isn't even half over yet but I have already called several students by either no name or the wrong name and referred to the poet James Whitcomb Riley as Charles Nelson Reilly, who is not at all the same person. Not even close.

It's appropriate, then, that today's reading for American Lit Survey included the Billy Collins poem "Forgetfulness," which begins, "The name of the author is the first to go." I suppose I should be happy I didn't call the poet either Billy Carter or Martha Layne Collins. It's annoying, by the way, to effortlessly recall the name of a former president's black-sheep brother or the name of the first female governor of Kentucky when I can't recall the name of either a familiar student or the poet who wrote "The Happy Little Cripple."

"Whatever it is you are struggling to remember," continues Collins (Billy, not Martha Layne), "It has floated away down a dark mythological river / whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall, / well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those / who have forgotten even how to swim and how to ride a bicycle." I've been heading down that river for a while now, but suddenly the current seems to be picking up speed. Can somebody throw me a lifeline?

2 comments:

JM said...

I will never think of James Whitcomb Riley the same way ever again.

Joy said...

Ohhh "The Happy Little Cripple," I'd almost forgotten that poem. You're right about the name thingy, though - Dr. Whoever-you-are.