Billy Collins Poetry

On “Special Glasses”

Posted in Reflections by csolsvig on the June 9, 2006

After reading this poem for the first time, I can safely say that it is probably my favorite I have read so far. The poem is about getting over a relationship he had with a woman, say his girlfriend. This is obviously a heartache that he cannot deal with on his own, and he, “had to send away for them” (l. 1). These special glasses shield out only the image and possibly his thoughts of her.

There were two very striking parts of the poem; “and as water swirls down the drain,/ but not the eggshell,/ so the flowering trellis and the moon/ pass thorugh my speical glasses, but not you.” (l. 30-34), and “Let us keep it this way, I say to myself,/ as I lay my special glasses on the night table,/ pull the chain on the lamp,/ and say a prayer-unlike the song-/ that I will not see you in my dreams.” (l. 35-39).

The first passage stuck out to me because of the imagry. I figured that there must be somthing more that he is trying to say in the metaphore about the water and the eggshell. Water symbolizes the flow and the everlasting cycle of life. The eggshell is breakable and is obviously ruptured and is in the process of being thrown away. Eggs also hold life but this one is broken and no longer contains anything of meaning. This is related to his apparent relationship with this woman and how it broke and possibly took away life. He wants to be able to flow like the water, and the drain is like his glasses and filter out the unwanted, or the eggshell. He does not want her in his life any longer and tries all that he can to weed her out.

The second excerpt from above captured my interest because it is the one time that he no longer wears the glasses. When he goes to bed, he has to take them off, and he has no more shield from her. Perhaps he takes this time to think of her in an uncontrolled way, without his safety net and filter. Perhaps he wants to think about her, and this is the only time when he allows himself to let go and let his memories and dreams take over and enjoy her company. This, however, might be a jump because the rest of the poem makes metaphores about how much he tries to keep the sight of her out. Instead, this last stanza might just be wishing for protection when he is forced to take off his glasses and dreads the impending attack from her. However (again), he is going to sleep, so perhaps by closing his eyes he is skill sheilding himself from the “harmful sight” (l. 7) of this woman.

The reason why this poem is special because I can reallly relate to his feelings of recovery and protection. Even though I am still quite young, I did have a very serious relationship which took a major toll on my life for about 9 months after it was over. I wish I had had these glasses he speaks of to protect me, however the process of getting over him did make me much stronger and more enlightened about ‘love’ and relationships with personally very special people. During this process, it was extremely hard to look at him without a surge of emotion (not to mention the eagles, which subsided into butterflies in my stomach) appear to be totally collected and calm. I wanted some outward protection, and Billy Collins seems to have found a good form of protection. However, I hope that he learned from the experience of getting over this woman. Perhaps the ‘getting over’ her took place in the night when he took off his glasses. But, I actually think that this poem is more of a reflection of the time right after the break-up, or once he has gotten over the saddness, because there is quite a bit of hostility in his words, phrases and metaphores. He just wants to get her out of his life completely, but he does not say why. In this poem, the speaker deals with the physical side of the separation, and really does not do much to address his emotions.

On the whole the poem got though becuase it is about love and the hostility with which people try to separate from the hurt that is attached.

One Response to 'On “Special Glasses”'

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  1.   dwalker said,

    on June 9th, 2006 at 8:59 am      

    I’m not sure he is over her. He wonders/worries as he’s going to sleep if she’s going to get to him. He has gotten pretty good during the day at keeping her at bay. The little things, the mundane things don’t get to him anymore, but he is still thinking of her in the guise of not thinking of her. It’s one of the ruses we run on ourselves in order to manage. “It’s not too bad today; she hasn’t gotten through the wall”. The trouble is that at night all the gates are thrown open. You can’t lock them, and there are no guards.

    Now, how do we use “Special Glasses” to consider love? It’s power and effect? What we do to open ourselves to it? What we do to survive it? What does the poem tell us about denial, about the lies we tell ourselves in order to manage those feelings that are so monstrous they threaten to overwhelm us? What are some of the essential truths about love and need and self-protection in the poem that make it universal?

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