Summary Of Billy Collins's 'Picnic Lightning'

764 Words4 Pages
English 10 Honors
Mr. Johnson
December 2nd 2014]
Picnic Lightning
Billy Collins’s Picnic Lightning talks about the significance of life. The poem conveys a general truth about menial importance and delicacy of human life. The speaker briefly talks about how easily a life can be taken and ended. The scenarios he states are very improbable and very ridiculous, however even with these impossible events we cannot deny that it is not only true but also happening all around us. The truth state by Collins allows the readers to think about and appreciate every moment of life. Billy does not incorporate any rhythm schemes into this poem, instead he mainly focuses on the usage of imagery and sardonic irony through his familiar and frequent focus on death.
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The first stanza gives four very improbable examples: death by meteor or plane, a falling safe and the touch of a thousand volts. These scenarios are so bizarre that people would simply ignore these possibilities, however with enough bad luck and karma, a life can be ended in the matter of seconds. This relates back to Collin’s original intention to remind the readers about the delicacy and importance of life. By adding descriptive context such as: “while reading in a chart at home” or using graphic words like “flatten” and “flash.” Collins is able to provide the readers a visually consistent and relatable scenario. The second stanza continues the list of odd ways to die, however in this stanza Collin’s begins to use figurative language to relate the readers with the text. The first sign of figurate language is Collin’s use metaphors and allegories, “The heart, no valentine, decides to quit after lunch.” The phrase no valentine is Collin’s cleaver use of the relationship between the heart and love. Despite the witty and humorous language, Collins is actually a heart stopping. “Or…show more content…
The speaker states “this is what I think about when I shovel compost into a wheelbarrow.” This line is very ironic because all of the dramatic and sardonic thoughts of the last two stanzas are instantly masked by the oddness of the speaker’s thoughts. However, the thoughts of the speaker is not completely illogical, it is perfectly reasonable for a person to think about death and decay when literally shoveling piles of decomposed organic matter. This is once again Collins poking at the theme of death. The next few lines of this stanza are mostly fillers and menial images. Towards the end of the stanza, death is mentioned once again, “the instant hand of Death always ready to burst forth from the sleeve of his voluminous cloak.” Notice the D in death is capitalized, thus Collins might be referring to death as grimly character. Death is also given actions and body parts, Death is also referred as a “he”. This line summarizes and once again refers to both the danger of ignorance and paranoia, too much of either will cause distraught and

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