The Poetry of Elizabeth Bishop, and How it Connects to Her Life Essay

The Poetry of Elizabeth Bishop, and How it Connects to Her Life Essay

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Elizabeth Bishop’s poetry has many characteristics that make it appealing. Her poetry links much with her life; a depressing but interesting one, which saw a troubled childhood, many countries and many awards for her poetry. Her celebrations of the ordinary are another appealing characteristic; an unusual yet original quality. Bishop’s poems have a unique style, with a fine combination of vivid imagery and concrete intense language. In addition to this we see detailed descriptions of the exotic and familiar. The poems themselves, while containing this style constantly, vary in poetic form – this is a welcome change instead of the monotonous form of poetry of other poets on the Leaving Certificate course. Finally, her range of themes adds to the variance in poetic form, making each Bishop poem original and of worth in its own right. The poems I have studied are: First Death In Nova Scotia, Filling Station, In the Waiting Room, A Prodigal, The Armadillo and The Fish.

As said, an appealing aspect of Bishop’s poetry is that her poetry links with her life. Bishop has some connection to each poem, and this adds credibility to her poetry. We see that it is real and serves some worth; Bishop does not simply write on some aspect issue – it is something that means a lot to her. In The Fish we see can view Bishop as the fish herself. The fish is affected (physically) by previous turmoil and Bishop talks of “meals with their ribbons/ frayed and wavering,” Likewise Bishop was affected by previous problems herself, from her childhood where she lost her mother to illness and her father through death, which she suffered with for her whole life. Does Bishop here hope for a new lease of life, like she gives to the fish at the end of the poem, wh...


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...king bouts” and how he “hid the pints behind the two-by-fours”. Likewise Bishop struggled with alcoholism during her life. Another link can also be made; the man struggles for a long time, until the poem’s end, to go home. Bishop herself is close to the theme of homelessness, as she was shunted around to different relatives due to her parentless state. The death of her parents and the effect of this on Bishop as a child is carried on into First Death in Nova Scotia. The death of cousin Arthur, while made ordinary with the coffin as “a little frosted cake” is still mysterious to the young Bishop. Perhaps we see the young Bishop here as she dealt with the death of her parents; knowing something was wrong, but not knowing what the something was. She queries “how could Arthur go,/ clutching up his tiny lily,/ with his eyes shut up so tight/ and the roads so deep in snow?”

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