We have all had those memorable moments that send us back in time; a song on the radio, the smell of cookies baking, driving in the car. They make you think of good times passed. But Billy Collins’s poem, “The Lanyard”, is not only a recollection of the past, but a personal insight to about the things his mother has done for him and what he has done in return.
The poem starts off with the speaker recounting an event that occurred the other day. We see him moving about a blue-walled room “ricocheting slowly” from one thing to the next (1). He seems to be in search of something, perhaps inspiration for his next poem, as he moves from items like the typewriter to the piano, from the piano to the bookshelf, then to an envelope on the floor, and finally to the L section of the dictionary. His actions are described as “moving as if underwater” and are coupled with the blue walls, giving the sense of fluid movement to not only the way he moves about, but to the poem as well. (3). Now it is here in the dictionary, that the word “lanyard” that sends him back into the past.
The transition to his past occurs after his reference to Marcel Proust, a French novelist who wrote many works after the taste of a cookie brought back many memories. No longer is he in the room of a learned poet, but he is now in the body of a child “at a workbench at a camp / by a deep Adirondack lake” (9-10). Again, we have a reference to water, which now gives the scene a serene setting and sets up the next section where he reveals his feelings for the lanyard.
Although he shifts the tone from stuffy, nostalgic to a humorous one where “He got the biggest laugh for … [juxtaposing] all his mother ever did for him with his gift of a lanyard of woven plastic that he made her at summer camp” (French), Billy Collins displays that the lanyard is vision of love and value. It’s the idea that a child doesn’t understand the material value or physical toll a mother in every sense sacrifices for her child, yet the child truly does love his mother, and so he gives her everything that’s important and valuable to him. He says, “I’m so young...