Friday, December 11, 2009
Richard Wilbur’s “ A Barred Owl” and Billy Collins’ “The History Teacher” both present a simplification of reality so that children will be saved from fear and undue anxiety. The two poets take different approaches in their exploration of this theme. Wilbur gives us a sense of protecting children from knowledge that is unsettling, and really unnecessary. His poetic form—a rhyme that evokes childhood bedtime stories—is both ironic and calming. Collins, on the other hand, shows the reader a deeply flawed teacher who absurdly distorts the ugly truths of history to save the innocence of his students, when in fact those same students are far from innocent. Collins uses free-verse, and absurd humor to drive home his darker points about human nature and history.