An Animated Interpretation of Billy Collins’ Poem, “Forgetfulness”

Some twen­ty-five years ago, my act­ing class spent an entire semes­ter on the plays of Anton Chekhov. At the time, it felt very vital, but like so much else I stud­ied in col­lege, what I wound up retain­ing is sad­ly piece­meal. One thing I do remem­ber is the youngest of the Three Sis­ters break­down upon real­iz­ing that they’ll nev­er make it to Moscow. At the heart of this freak-out is her despair that she, and every­one who mat­ters to her, is aging, a con­di­tion she defines as dimin­ish­ment. It seemed a bit over-the-top to me at the time. For god’s sake, she’s only 24. So what if she can’t remem­ber a few words of school­girl Ital­ian? Two and a half decades out, I was mis­re­mem­ber­ing her name as Anya, a momen­tary con­fu­sion eas­i­ly right­ed on my third Google search.

(IRINA. (Sob­bing.) Where? Where has it all gone? Where is it? Oh my God, my God! I have for­got­ten every­thing, for­got­ten every­thing… Every­thing is con­fused in my head… I can’t remem­ber what is the word for win­dow in Ital­ian, or for ceil­ing… I am for­get­ting every­thing, I for­get more every day, and life flies past and nev­er returns, nev­er, and we will nev­er go to Moscow… I see now that we will nev­er go…)

I flashed on this long ago melt­down while watch­ing “For­get­ful­ness,” the love­ly ani­ma­tion of the Bil­ly Collins poem, above. As Collins lists the seem­ing­ly incon­se­quen­tial things lost, it occurred to me that the cen­tral “you” could stand for any­body: you, me, an elder­ly rel­a­tive, Chekhov’s Iri­na. (Not Anya. If we’re to make it to Moscow, we bet­ter get crack­ing.)

We’re lucky to have artists like Chekhov, Collins, and by exten­sion, ani­ma­tor Julian Grey, all pos­sessed of the abil­i­ty to imbue one of mankind’s most depress­ing and time­ly real­i­ties with ten­der­ness and lyri­cism. Per­haps you’ll remem­ber some­one with whom to share “For­get­ful­ness”.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Bil­ly Collins Poet­ry to Ani­mat­ed Life

The Ani­ma­tion of Bil­ly Collins’ Poet­ry

Ayun Hal­l­i­day describes some of the places she has been (not Moscow) in No Touch Mon­key! And Oth­er Trav­el Lessons Learned Too Late.

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  • I have been to Moscow, when Rus­sia was still the Sovi­et Union. And that trip com­pris­es some of the mem­o­ries I can still grasp. Though there are plen­ty of books I have for­got. Poems stay with us much longer how­ev­er. This is one of them.

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