In the poem, “Winter Syntax”, Billy Collins writes about the difficulties of writing literature through the representation of a “lone traveler” and his adventures through a blizzard. Collins talks about the important aspects of good writing. He starts off the poem emphasizing the importance of the first sentence and how it is analogous to a lone traveler going through a tough blizzard. By using the analogy of the traveler, Collins allows readers to vicariously imagine the difficulties a writer goes through while writing. Collins ends the poem saying “the man will express a single thought” as if to say he has finally finished explaining the difficulties of writing -the lone traveler that travelled through the storm. The structure of the poem is organized into 6 stanzas; some of the stanzas contain continuous sentences with no pauses.
This effect shows that the “traveler” is indeed continuously travelling. The poet intentionally made the first stanza just one continuous sentence to depict that the most important aspect of written work is its first sentence. “A sentence starts out like a lone traveler/heading into a blizzard at midnight”. Most writers take a lot of time to find inspiration therefore they need to brainstorm their ideas, the “traveler” is an abstract presentation of all their difficulties writing. However, as good writers, they will be determined to persevere through all obstacles to achieve producing quality work, just like the traveler who “tilts into the wind” as if fighting against it.
If the writer puts in enough effort, “the tails of his thin coat” will start “flapping behind” them. In other words, the “tails of the thin coat” represent the writer’s progress and the “flapping” is like a reminder for him to move on. In the second stanza, Collins talks about how gestures can symbolize words and talks about how gestures are described in literature as verbs. The words “hold”, “lift”, “toss” and “blazing” are examples are verbs. Collins states the importance of verbs and how it is important to complete the sentence, because if a sentence does not contain a verb, it is incomplete. In the end, Collins goes back to the sentence and relating it to how an alphabet to a sentence is what a boot print is to a shoe.