Elizabeth Bishop Poetry Analysis

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“Bishop’s carefully judged use of language aids the reader to uncover the intensity of feeling in her poetry.” While studying Elizabeth Bishop's poetry, it was remarkably clear that Bishop's carefully judged use of language aids the reader to uncover the intensity of feeling in her poetry. In the six poems in which I studied by this poet, we can see how Bishop used the languages to her advantage in a way that helped the reader to uncover the intensity of feeling in her work. We can see the emotions in her poetry through a mix of language types and techniques within "The Fish", "The Prodigal", “In the Filling Station", "In the Waiting Room", "Sestina" and "First Death in Nova Scotia". Throughout my answer, I will discuss these emotions. The…show more content…
The poem explores the isolation, deception and lack of control experienced by a person battling with their addiction. There is enormous human understanding throughout the poem; Bishop feels sorry for the prodigal and her imagery makes us feel sympathy towards him too. The prodigal lives in dire conditions where the ‘enormous odour’ is so overwhelming and overpowering that it has impaired his judgement. The world of nature has made the alcoholic’s life more bearable and helped him to cope with his suffering and loneliness. The exile of the prodigal is both literal and metaphorical. He is physically isolated from his family, and he experiences a spiritual isolation. ‘And then he thought he almost might endure his exile yet another year or more’. The religious image could suggest that the prodigal begins to think of his spiritual life. ‘The lantern - like the sun, going away - laid on the mud a pacing aureole’. The physical darkness and blindness experienced by bats reflects the spiritual darkness of the prodigal. ‘He felt the bats’ uncertain staggering flight. At the end of the poem, there is an image of hope as the prodigal decides ‘to go home’. As is evident in the first stanza, the light makes the prodigal realise and accept that he must change his life. Once again Bishop admires the human spirit as he makes the brave decision to return home and ask for…show more content…
Bishop realises that beauty can be found in even the tedious and mundane things – which uncovers the intensity of feeling in her poetry. Bishop uses precise and carefully judged language to portray the filth of the filling station. When she looks at the filling station, it is as if everything is shiny and black. The oil has created a glistening sheen over everything; she even adds that this excess oil is ‘disturbing’. After observing the details of the filling station, she wonders about the family who lives in such dirt, and begins to notice small attempts to create a sense of home amidst the filth - ‘a set of crushed and grease- impregnated wickerwork; on the wicker sofa a dirty dog, quite comfy’. Bishop realises that ‘somebody’ is trying to make a more ordered life for themselves. In the midst of dirt and untidiness, ‘somebody’ tries to create order and beauty. ‘Why the extraneous plant? Why the taboret? Why, oh why, the doily?’. She ends the poem with a proverb – that in spite of our failings ‘somebody loves us all’. For me as the reader, through Bishops uncovering of the intensity of feeling, this is a comforting thought. I believe that this poem can be interpreted on a symbolic level. For example, the filling station represents the world and life in general; the grease and oil represent the disorder and chaos in our

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