Study Guide

Man Listening to Disc Stanza 5

By Billy Collins

Stanza 5

Line 21

this crowd with his cumbersome drums.

  • In this enjambed line, the speaker explains that Taylor is navigating the crowd with his "cumbersome drums." 
  • What crowd is the speaker talking about? It's the street crowd, of course. The speaker's walking through midtown Manhattan—that's a crowded place, what with all those skyscrapers and guys in business suits and women in high heels. 
  • By saying that Taylor is navigating the crowd with his drums, the speaker conjures up for us an image of the drummer actually walking through the street beside him with his big drums. So the speaker continues to describe these musicians as people who are keeping him company on his walk down the street. It's as if they're all strolling along together—with their instruments and all. The music of these musicians is so powerful that it's as if they're right there physically with the speaker. 
  • We get alliteration again in these lines. "Crowd" and "cumbersome" both repeat the letter C sound. The repeated use of alliteration in the poem is the primary way that the speaker creates rhythms and "music" of his own in "Man Listening to Disc." (See "Sound Check" for more.)

Lines 22-25

And I bow deeply to Thelonious Monk
for figuring out a way
to motorize – or whatever – his huge piano
so he could be with us today. 

  • Thelonious Monk is coming along for the jazz parade, too. We can figure out from the speaker's words that he's a pianist, since there's a reference to his "piano" in line 24.
  • The speaker bows "deeply" to Monk because Monk has figured out a way to "motorize – or whatever – his huge piano/ so he could be with us today." Of course, Monk isn't actually wheeling his piano along the street next to the speaker. 
  • But, by giving us an image of Monk "motorizing" his piano, the speaker again gives us a strong sense of the connection that he feels to these musicians, and how their music makes him feel as if they're present with him. 
  • Notice how colloquial (slang-like) the language gets in these lines. When the speaker says "or whatever," we're getting diction that is very much a part of everyday speech. We all say "whatever" when we speak to our friends and family, don't we? "Call me later, or whatever." So the language of this poem is very much the language of everyday speech. It's simple and informal.

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