William James Collins, the Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003, is a contemporary American poet. He has a unique style of writing that makes young readers enjoy his work for its modern and most easy to understand the technique. As the title of the poem ‘Today’ suggests, it describes a particular day in spring, the poet is talking about. The poem pictures the change occurs while the season changes from winter to spring and how good the spring feels.
‘Today’ by Billy Collins beginning with the “if” makes the readers visualize a perfect spring day the poet enjoyed. Instead of describing the day directly, the poet uses this indirect approach to allow the readers to connect themselves with the day the poet felt like a perfect spring day. The poem illustrates a day in spring, and how good it feels. According to the poet, a perfect spring day will make someone “throw open all the windows in the house.” The poet is euphoric over the spring day, thus he imagines beyond the possibility and thinks of even letting the people free, from the snow-covered cottage in the glass paperweight. In a nutshell, the poem catches the excitement of the poem and anyone, who finds the day warm and welcome after all the monotonous days of winter.
You can read the full poem here.
Form and Structure
Collins is better known for his simple and ingenious writing style, mostly consisting of the free verse form. His poems often have no set rhyme pattern, rhythm, or line and stanza numbers. In ‘Today’, he has employed the free verse form, structured like a string of nine couplets, connected through the intermittent idea and pauses and punctuation. While reading the poem, it gives a sense of tranquility which stands to testify the poet’s attitude towards the day as positive similar to the season itself. In a more vivid perspective, the poem is a sensory description of the warming “sunlight” that waits to seep through. The speaker does effectively makes the reader think about the way in which he sees spring as beautiful, perfect, and constant.
Theme and Setting
Collins has a unique way of taking small objects or situations and amplifying them to produce an effect on the readers as if they are very important. In ‘Today’, he has taken a spring day as a subject. He details, how good the day is and encourages the readers too to enjoy it. In Collins’s view, this perfect day, which makes one wide open the windows, the door to the canary, and break free the couple in that snow cottage, will not occur often. Simultaneously, it is the poet’s call for the readers to enjoy with nature and sunlight of a beautiful spring day.
Billy Collins ‘Today’, though written in a simple way, like his many other poems, uses vibrant images to convey the speaker’s springtime euphoria. The imageries used in the poem allude to a perfect spring day. His excitement is instigated by the combination of “a warm intermittent breeze,” a “garden bursting with peonies,” and a “dome of blue and white.” Further, the poem describes what he feels like doing in the following image where he wants to “unlatch the door to the canary’s cage, / indeed, rip the little door from its jamb”. In addition to this, he desires to share this happiness of spring with figurines in the “snow-covered cottage” inside the glass paperweight by break opening it. Altogether, these images not only express the poet’s desire but of everyone, to enjoy the warm air and sunlight after a long winter inside.
Tone and Language
Collins uses simple and energetic diction in his poem ‘Today.’ His choice of words and the images he used help the readers to enjoy the beauty of spring. It allows the readers to open their minds and heart to this season of positivity.
The tone of the poem goes hand in hand with the subject and language of the poem. The poet uses a tone of joy, playfulness, and happiness to express his excitement over this perfect spring day. All the references he has used to exhibit his attitude and tone. The poet’s excitement is very much visible in his choice of words.
Poetic and Literary Devices
Alliteration, in a poem, refers to a series of words in quick succession that gives a pleasing rhythm to the poem. Generally, it will start with the same letter or sound. In line sixteen, the poet uses alliteration in “Holding hands.”
Onomatopoeia refers to words that sound like the thing they’re referring to. In ‘today’ the poet uses the words “Unlatched”, and “Rip” to add excitement to the poem allowing the reader to hear what he feels.
The author compares the arrival of the spring after winter through the image of him breaking “the glass paperweight” and “releasing the inhabitants/ from their snow-covered cottage”. Moreover, the phrase where he expects them to walk in the “larger dome of blue and white” stands as a metaphor for the world under the sky.
In this poem ‘Today’ the poet describes a spring day that he considers to be a perfect one. Starting with “If” the poem tells us what are the situations or emotions that stand to testify the talisman of spring. Spring often associated with the new beginning of nature, has provided him with blooming flowers. Also, the wind and clouds are serene that it would definitely excite anyone; no wonder the poet is euphoric.
Lines 1 to 6
If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze
and unlatch the door to the canary’s cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,
The poem starts off by telling that “a spring day so perfect” combined with “warm intermittent breeze,” would definitely make anyone “throw/open all the windows in the house”. At the peak of excitement and vibrancy, it will make a person “rip the little door” to the “canary’s cage”. The poet compares the excitement of being in spring through this image. A man filled with positivity will definitely allow the birds to enjoy the freedom or happiness of being in spring. The bird in the cage is also a symbol to the people who had to lock themselves up in the houses to be protected from the winter.
Lines 7 to 17
a day when the cool brick paths
into this larger dome of blue and white,
In the following lines, the poet speaks of another element of spring that is the garden filled with flowers. The garden filled with flowers in spring is exaggerated as if it is “bursting” with peonies. The following lines of the poem indicate how excited the speaker is to be in spring. As he witnessed the peonies etched in the “sunlight” he felt like breaking “the glass paperweight” and “releasing the inhabitants/from their snow-covered cottage.”For the poet, it seemed to be the right thing to do to share the joy of spring.
well, today is just that kind of day.
In the concluding lines, the poet tells us that “today is just that kind of day”. It stands for the day the poet has written the poem. The poem could also be considered a dramatic irony for the poet has revealed that he is talking about spring. Yet, he tells us his experience through the second-person perspective “If ever there were” and “it made you”. Eventually, if one has experienced all these moments of spring could definitely enjoy the poet’s emotion.
The spring season with its beauty and positivity has inspired many poets to write poems. Similarly, a number of spring poems available in the literature that could melt the heart of the readers. The following poems are a good choice to read more about spring:
- ‘Sonnet 98: From you have I been absent in the spring’ by William Shakespeare
- ‘Lines Written in Early Spring’ by William Wordsworth
- ‘O were my Love yon Lilac fair’ by Robert Burns
- ‘Spring’ by William Blake
- ‘Young Lambs’ by John Clare
- ‘Loveliest of trees, the cherry now’ by A. E. Housman
- ‘Spring’ by Gerard Manley Hopkins
- ‘A Light Exists in Spring’ by Emily Dickinson
- ‘Spring’ by Christina Rossetti.