Ballistics: Poems

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In this moving and playful collection, Billy Collins touches on an array of subjects—love, death, solitude, youth, and aging—delving deeper than ever before into the intricate folds of life.
Curriculet Details
22 Questions
30 Annotations
3 Quizzes

This free digital curriculum for 12th grade students contains interactive videos exploring the techniques Collins uses to convey themes, as well as annotations describing historical and literary allusions. Students will explore the themes of the art of writing, death, and loneliness. The Common Core aligned questions, answers and quizzes in this free online unit will increase student engagement in the book while supporting reading comprehension.

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August in Paris

In this introductory poem, Billy Collins, the poet who wrote this work, poses a question directly to the reader. What is it that he wonders? This question is related to one of the central themes in this work. As you read, we will examine more themes, and specifically focus on how Collins' unique writing style conveys these themes.. Watch the video below to prepare you for this focus.  (This annotation contains a video)

Homework #12

As you read through Collins' work, you will see how the real and imaginary blend together. What starts off as simple admiration of crew boats, turns into an imaginative trip aboard a crew boat as its team races through the water. Does your imagination ever wander the way Collins' does? 

Homework #13

Why is Collins MOST likely so fascinated with Snowflake? 

Homework #14

Did you know that this Curriculet has a built-in "Define" tool? To use this tool, click on any word, and select the "Define" option. Several definitions should appear for most words. (Note: Some words will not have definitions in this Curriculet's "Define" tool).  
Which of the following themes does this poem BEST describe? 

Homework #15

Another aspect of Collins' poetry that we will focus on in his use of imagery, specifically how the imagery he uses affects tone, mood, and themes. Watch the video below on imagery. In what ways do the highlighted lines create an almost startling image in your mind?  (This annotation contains a video)
The final image is MOST likely meant to touch upon which of the following themes?  

Homework #16

As you will notice, Collins often delves deep into his own psyche. He looks at his fears, what motivates him, his dreams. In these poems, it's important to look at the tone he uses towards himself. How would you describe his attitude towards his "Evasive Maneuvers" and his tendency to isolate? You can watch the video below on tone and mood if you need a refresher on these topics.  (This annotation contains a video)

Homework #17

Which of the following lines BEST conveys Collins' sense of gratitude for the present moment?  

Homework #18

If you are an artist, have you ever felt threatened by another artist's work? Have you ever found yourself critical of their work? One aspect of Collins' work that appeals to his readers is his honest portrayal of his inner-world. Most people won't admit publicly how they really feel; Collins has no hesitations sharing his feelings.  

Homework #19

An aubade is a type of poem that typically deals with two lovers celebrating, welcoming, or lamenting the coming forth of a new day. John Donne's "The Sun Rising" is a famous example of an aubade.  
What is the MAIN reason Collins rises early in the morning? 

Homework #20

Take a moment and think about the imagery that is used in this poem. What images does Collins most contrast? What theme does this contrast most relate to? 

Homework #21

This is an allusion to Christ, who is mentioned in the Gospel of John as "the Word."  
How do "No Things" and the "The First Night" both refine the theme of death in this first section of Collins' work?  

Homework #22

Part I Quiz 

Homework #24

Based on the details in the highlighted passage, Raymond Chandler MOST likely wrote 
As you finish the final lines of this poem, think back to the theme we looked at in the first section of Collins' work regarding the life of an artist. What does this poem reveal about Collins' attitude towards other poets? Do you think the language he uses makes him sound sincere?  

Homework #26

What impact is Collins' imaginative description of "The Greek and Roman Statues" MOST likely meant to have on readers?  

Homework #27

The Cameldolites are an order of monks who practice silence as way to become aware of oneself, God, and nature. Collins apparently has taken a trip here. An image of their retreat center is shown below.  (This annotation contains an image)
Self-awareness is an important aspect of Collins' poetry. In fact, it appears in his work so often, that we can refer to it as a motif. Watch the video below to learn more about motifs. We will identify other motifs and explore how these motifs help us understand themes.  (This annotation contains a video)

Homework #29

The imagery used in this poem is MOST likely meant to  

Homework #30

Can you identify a motif in this poem? There are actually a couple of them. Here are two hints: 1. The title is an example of one and 2. they are phrases that should be interpreted figuratively.  

Homework #31

Collins' allusion to Ovid's life BEST connects to which motif in his other poems, such as "Evasive Maneuvers"?  

Homework #32

Both Leonardo and Vegetarius represent different ways of thinking. What kinds of "ideas" does Collins contrast in this poem through these two individuals?  

Homework #34

Collin's imagery of the "the cow's heavy breathing" is a motif that helps advance a theme in this collection of poems. Which theme does this motif MOST advance? 

Homework #36

Collins' overuse of the word "suddenly" BEST reveals that he is using ______ to make a point about the rules that some people make about writing.   

Homework #37

Collins reveals something interesting about these places in his hometown. The way he exposes these words and their seemingly superficial meaning, is an example of irony--the name tells us one thing, but the reality of the place is different. Watch the video below to learn about irony. We will explore this topic in Collins' work and its relationship to the major themes.  (This annotation contains a video)

Homework #38

The way in which Collins' perspective suddenly shifts at the end of this poem is an example of  

Homework #39

The highlighted passage is obviously said in a sarcastic tone. What kind of irony would this be?  

Homework #40

What statement about poetry does Collins make through "The Lamps Unlit"?  

Homework #41

Collins, as we've studied, uses imagery to create a mood, a tone, and even to convey a theme. What purpose does imagery serve in this poem? How does imagery help you visualize the events in this poem?  

Homework #43

In a world where life is so sacred, because of the inevitability of death, this woman might be treated contemptuously for not having children. Collins reveals that even his own expectations and judgments about her might have been wrong. In what ways does Collins show reverence towards her perspective on life?  

Homework #44

Le chien means "the dog" in French.  
Based on the words used in the final lines of "Le Chien" (highlighted to the left), which  of the following words BEST describes the tone created by their cumulative impact? 

Homework #45

Does "Addendum" remind you of any other Collins' poems in this work? Hint: Think about the poems that deal with love. Which lines in this poem best support this interpretation of this poem? 

Homework #47

Part II Quiz 

Homework #49

"Adage" is another poem in which Collins voices his perspective on language and how it is used. What does he say about adages? In what way does he manipulate them in order to achieve meaning in this poem? 

Homework #50

Statues are another motif in Collins' work. What theme does the statue motif MOST advance in this work?  

Homework #51

This literary technique is called hyperbole. Collins is expressing his point of view by exaggerating about what he's willing to do. What mood does his exaggerated claim stir up in this poem?  

Homework #52

Read the following lines from this poem: "these expressive little creatures,/ and each with an alphabet of only two letters".  What is Collins referring to in the underlined phrase?  

Homework #53

In what way does Collins create a playful treatment of the subject of figurative language? Do you agree that poetry has the power to express meaning in multiple or ambiguous ways?  

Homework #54

Watch the following performance of "Bathtub Families". Answer the question that follows.  (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following BEST describes the speaker's tone in his interpretation of "Bathtub Families"?  

Homework #55

Read this poem aloud to yourself, especially the last stanza. What do you notice about the Chinese poets' names?  

Homework #57

Collins' humorous conversation with a dead fish is MOST meant to convey a theme related to  

Homework #59

Take a moment and think about the specific points Collins makes as he contrast a poem and novel. In what ways does he suggest a poem is better? How does his analogy of an "imaginary room" help you understand poetry?  

Homework #61

Which of the following is NOT an element in "Divorce" that emphasizes the harshness of divorce? 

Homework #62

Liu Yung, as this poem explains, is an 8th century Chinese poet. You can read one of his poems by clicking on the link below.  (This annotation contains a link)
Notice the use of birds again as a motif in this poem. What theme does Collins consistently tie into with his bird motif?  

Homework #64

Who is the "Old Man" in this poem? 

Homework #65

In what way does this poem help you get inside the head of someone who experiences unreciprocated love? How does Collins' metaphor in this poem change the way you see this experience?  

Homework #67

Sometimes to fully appreciate a Collins' poem you have to look up words to help understand his imagery. Define "rictus" using the built-in tool. How does this word help you visualize the impact of this image? 
How does Collins manipulate the concept of a "mortal coil" in this poem?  

Homework #69

Part III Quiz