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Elizabeth Bishop Analysis

1161 words - 5 pages

Elizabeth Bishop is an intriguing and enigmatic poet whose poetic voice is distinct and individualistic. In many ways Derek Mahon's assessment of Bishop as "the shy perfectionist with her painter's eye", is her most fitting and apt legacy. Bishop's work is replete with vivid imagery and striking metaphors and the keenness of her perception of the world around her is remarkable. Her poetry is carefully wrought often combining rich and detailed imagery with thematic indirectness. In my opinion, Bishop is a poet of the ordinary, the mundane and the banal, who writes about the universal themes of loss, loneliness, belonging and pain. We often search Bishop's poetry to understand her life and we ...view middle of the document...

In my opinion, in 'Filling Station', Bishop is investigating why we feel we are compelled to do this.The language is simple but effective the poet describes the banal picture of the filling station. My first impression of the omniscient narration was a harshly judgemental voice combined with a tone of superiority and disgust. She creates a context, describing her surroundings as "oil-soaked" with an "overall black translucency".It is obvious that the poet's curiosity is aroused as she poses a series of questions interrogating the uniqueness and mystery behind the mundane scene she is presented with. She wonders, "Do they live in the filling station". The scene transforms from a "dirty" and disgusting place to a "comfy" one, a place of nurture. "Comfy" is a colloquial phrase to emphasise that the filling station is a place of calmness and a relaxation, a home, rather than a place of strict rules and order, a work place.The first image we are presented with is that of the sordid, decrepit world of the filling station. We are then introduced to the inhabitants. The Father in "an oil-soaked monkey-suit" and his "greasy sons". The whole scene is described as thoroughly "dirty" and masculine and is completed with a "dirty dog" relaxing on the wicker furniture. The dog comprises the family unit, further emphasising that the filling station is a home. As the poet becomes more drawn into the scene, she begins to focus on objects that illustrate the desire or aspiration for a different, finer or better life. These ordinary objects bring order to the chaotic scene which is so common to Bishop's poetry. "Why, oh, why the doily?"The final line encapsulates Bishop's sense of an affectionate presence, "Somebody loves us all". We are left with an image of a female presence, or on a broader sense the "somebody" may imply a divine perspective where filth and ornament are reconciled. The poem ends with a tolerant and optimistic view of humanity which is very unusual to Bishop's poetry."First Death in Novia Scotia", Bishop's elegy for her young cousin Arthur is one of the simplest yet compelling and moving poems the poet has ever written. Articulated from a child's perspective and containing one of...

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