Success Path Exploration in Poetry - Literary Essay Example

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1349 Words
Date:  2021-04-02

Before one thinks of success, they need to think about changing various aspects. In the process of change, they gear towards self-discovery as accentuated by various poets. Exploration is among the first steps in bringing out the potential for success. As long as one is willing to experiment with new tactics, success is almost guaranteed. All human beings share the desire to succeed, irrespective of their age. The definition that one tags to success determines how far they will go in an attempt to achieve this success (Layard 731). From time immemorial, different writers have come up with suggestions, strategies and tips on how to succeed in ones undertakings. It is important to note that most writers seem to concur that exploration and discovery are the keys that often open the doors for change, and, as a result, lead to success. Poets have not been left behind either; and the power in their words is a force to reckon with (Avia 28). They have explored the aspect of discovery and change, as influential to success. This paper analyzes three poems in this light. The poems are: Sonnet by Billy Collins, A Spiral Notebook by Ted Koozer, and Like Lilly Like Wilson by Taylor Mali. These three poems will be looked at in the light of discovery and change as they are related to success. If individuals understand the influence and power associated with discovery and exploration, they can utilize them to bring meaningful and real results. Willpower is not enough for the desired success to be realized: one has to explore, discover, and change their outlook of life.

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An exploration of how one goes about the business of life is a step towards the discovery that will lead to change, and as a result, success. It is possible to evaluate and change the traditional ways of doing things. Bill Collins, in his poem Sonnet suggests that time has come for people to reexamine the content of sonnets. Traditionally, most sonnets dwell on the theme of love. Bill Collins begins his poem with a general introduction in regard to the construction of a sonnet. He says in the first two lines that All we need is fourteen lines, well, thirteen now/and after this one just a dozen. He goes on to state that all that the traditional sonnet does is launch a little ship on love's storm-tossed seas. The poet uses the metaphor of the little ship in the storm-tossed sea of love as a kind of analogy which implies that this aspect of love that has been written about in numerous sonnets is so troublesome that no sonnet can overcome it. Collins further suggests that the same thing has been done in the same way all through like rows of beans. He says:

How easily it goes unless you get Elizabethan
and insist the iambic bongos must be played
and rhymes positioned at the ends of lines,
one for every station of the cross.

This means that it would have been easier to write a sonnet had the proponents of Elizabethan poetry not insisted that it must be written in a similar style, structure and contain related content. In his poem, A Spiral Notebook, Ted Koozer seems to concur with Billy Collins that the traditional way of doing things needs to be reevaluated. He begins his poem with a simile that captures the attention of the reader. The simile is a comparison between the bright wire of the notebook and a porpoise going in and out of the blue sea. This going in and out implies an aspect of exploration; a reevaluation. The poet emphasizes that there is great potential in the notebook, only if it is used meaningfully. He continues to compare the notebooks spiral to a sleeping person:

twisting in and out of his dreams,
for it could hold a record of dreams
if you wanted to buy it for that
though it seems to be meant for more serious work, with its college-ruled lines and its cover

This means that the notebook has great potential. It could prove more useful than just holding college notes. Taylor Mali, in his poem Like Lilly Like Wilson, also stresses on the need to view life in a fresh perspective. He begins the poem by declaring that he is writing the poem that will change the world. This is a hint that he is not comfortable with the conventional outlook of life; hence, is advocating for a reevaluation that will lead to change. In the poem, Lilly is supposed to write a research paper on about how homosexuals shouldn't be allowed to adopt children. However, she cannot find sources to support her argument since They all argue in favor of what I (the persona) thought I (he) was against. The persona then discovers how much potential there is in Lilly, the eighth-grader. This explains why a reevaluation needs to be done so that one discovers how much potential they harbor.

After reevaluation, there is need for change if success is to be achieved. In Taylor Malis poem, Like Lilly Like Wilson, discovers that she cannot stick to a topic that has no sources to back her arguments up. It is time for change. She faces her teacher and tells him that she would like to switch side. The teacher is impressed and admits:

That changing your mind is one of the best ways
of finding out whether or not you still have one.
Or even that minds are like parachutes,
that it doesn't matter what you pack
them with so long as they open
at the right time.

This is a suggestion that Billy Collins agrees with in his poem Sonnet in which he says that a turn has to be made. He implies that the lover of sonnets should be accorded the freedom to choose how to write, rather than be restricted by the Elizabethan and Petrarchan styles. He longs for a time when all will be resolved and:

where longing and heartache will find an end, where Laura will tell Petrarch to put down his pen, take off those crazy medieval tights, blow out the lights, and come at last to bed.

Such a change will be of great relief to the sonnet writer who will no longer be restricted; and to them, success will be in the offing. Nobody can ignore the power of change. Even Ted Koozer in his poem A Spiral Notebook emphasizes that It seems/a part of growing old is no longer /to have five subjects,/but instead to stand in a drugstore/and hang on to one subject. This is evidence enough that it is no longer viable to resist change because, eventually, one will have to face it. as soon as an individual discovers the potential in the notebook, that one can rewrite their life, there will be no choice but to have a new outlook of life. The notebook is no longer a mundane item; it is a wonder to behold as one weighs it in their hands. A change is, thus, inevitable for success to be reached.


In conclusion, it is not enough to desire to be successful. Willpower is not enough for any person eyeing the ultimate goal. One must explore, discover and make the necessary changes. Only then, can they claim to be geared towards success. The three poets, Taylor Mali, Billy Collins and Ted Koozer have explicitly expounded on the aspects of exploration, discovery and change as the main recipe for success. Their poems have concurred on almost all the important aspects of success. One of the most important things to note is that the three poets have great passion for the aspects they are advocating for. It is therefore paramount for every human being, as to explore and discover what they have passion for, and then pursue it with passion irrespective of the changes that they will have to contend with.


Avia, Tusiata. "The 'Power' of 'Poetry'." English in Aotearoa 72 (2010): 28.

Layard, Richard, et al. "What Predicts a Successful Life? A LifeCourse Model of WellBeing." The Economic Journal 124.580 (2014): F720-F738.

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