Poetry Zone 8: Elizabeth Bishop

Elizabeth Bishop por Alethia Ochoa. Desactivaré los comentarios de todas las entradas de poesía y dejaré de recibir material musical y fotográfico el lunes 3 de junio a las 10 am.


5 Respuestas a “Poetry Zone 8: Elizabeth Bishop

  1. Juan Manuel Landeros

    As Alethia mentions in her essay, spatiality is very important in Elizabeth Bishop’s poetry. For instance, in “The Map” Elizabeth Bishop plays with the notions of boundaries both physical and metaphorical:

    Land lies in water; it is shadowed green.
    Shadows, or are they shallows, at its edges
    showing the line of long sea-weeded ledges
    where weeds hang to the simple blue from green.
    Or does the land lean down to lift the sea from under,
    drawing it unperturbed around itself?
    Along the fine tan sandy shelf
    is the land tugging at the sea from under?

    As we can see in this quotation, the poetic voice explains how land and water intermingle. The speaker would seem to be at a loss at defining the exact position of the land and what it is actually doing. The poetic voice focuses on describing or giving just spatial references, which might seem very simplistic at a first stance. However, as the poem develops, we learn that what we thought to be a plain or realistic description of a landscape is actually the description of a map. It is precisely by this play with the expectations of the reader that Elizabeth Bishop, as the same Alethia suggests, is able to portray and explore several layers of meaning; that is, going through something small to something more relevant. In this case, rather than having an actual description of spatiality what we find is the questioning of the notions of reality and representation, the questioning of the limits of these boundaries. Likewise, it would seem that the poem stands as the proof of how we can approach reality through representation and the other way around.

  2. Etzel Hinojosa

    I agree with Alethia when she says that landscape for Bishop is important to her poems. However, I believe that in “The Imaginary Iceberg,” Bishop mocks this idea. By alluding to an imaginary iceberg, the title can suggest a kind of Romantic interiorization.

    Icebergs behove the soul
    (Both being self-made from elements least visible)
    To see them so: fleshed, fair, erected indivisible.

    In these lines, the soul and the iceberg are equal for both are made by similar elements. The parenthesis creates a rupture in the reading of the clause (“Icebergs behove the soul to see them so”), so that the reader is prone to interpret “them” of the last line of the quote as “icebergs and soul” instead of only “icebergs.” Consequently, the reader ends the poem with the image of the iceberg and soul mixed together, as if they stood for the same thing, being one part of the other, and which will support the notion of interiorization. However, it is difficult to affirm that the poetic voice is the one that is interiorizing the landscape, for it is not a single individual but a “we”; still, there must be a somebody who is imagining the iceberg and creating and introspection from it. It could be the reader, or maybe the poet herself. It is not clear in the poem; and it would be almost impossible to read it as an introspection without the possibility of referring to an individual who is “introspecting” it. I will argue that the fact that the iceberg is being imagined does not refer exactly to an interiorization but it rather reminds us about its artificial quality. Following the idea of the transcendentalism of the Romantics, the following question emerges: how can the iceberg represent the sublime if it is only an artifice? I believe that the poem’s answer is that it cannot.
    In an almost unnoticed line, the poem states: “This scene where he who treads the boards/ Is artlessly rhetorical.” A superficial reading can disguise this affirmation as an expression of the magnificence of the iceberg; however, it requires a more careful reading to deduce that the imaginary sailor of the poem is incapable of articulating language to depict the majesty of the iceberg. What it implies is that language is not able to communicate the sublime that represents the iceberg. The problem is that it is language the very source of the poem’s constitution. Thus, the problem of the sailor is parallel to the labor of the poet, for it is language the very essence of poetry. As some critics affirm, the sublime for Bishop opened to uncontrollable exterior forces that go beyond language, so that by giving a more concrete meaning, the poem will become ordinary.

  3. Valeria Becerril F.

    In the poem “The Map” Bishop begins by describing a scene where water meets land, it does not seem as anything extraordinary, then it continues to talk about the water and the shore line. The setting begins as a tridimensional place but as the poem progresses the environment is turned flat. The images that are presented at the beginning are transformed into lines on a map “The shadow of Newfoundland lies flat and still. / Labrador’s yellow, where the moony Eskimo/ has oiled it. We can stroke these lovely bays.” Alethia mentioned that the poetic voice is observing the map under a glass and that this gives it a deeper perspective which I agree, I also think that the mention of the glass serves to encase the world, it allows the poetic voice to own the environment.

  4. Eréndira María Díaz Valencia

    Having had such a hectic upbringing it does not seem odd that Bishop recurs to the idea of movement and the consequences of that moving. In another one of her poems (the first I read from her) “One Art” also serves well to illustrate some of the things Alethia pointed out for example, “poetic layering.” Let me attach the poem,
    The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
    so many things seem filled with the intent
    to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

    Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
    of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
    The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

    Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
    places, and names, and where it was you meant
    to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

    I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
    next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
    The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

    I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
    some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
    I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

    —Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
    I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
    the art of losing’s not too hard to master
    though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

    Here we can see how her images are connected by the recurrent idea that “the art of losing isn’t hard to master.” But then, the pace and the imagery changes, “Then practice losing farther, losing faster” and we realize that due to the “layering” we are able to follow the in crescendo list of loses; she effectively takes us from lost door keys up to the losing of the addressee “you”. And it is by this layering that she turns “ordinary images into great “description[s] of places through full, loving, naturalistic detail”” as Alethia commented and quoted. Because at the end we realize that the items that appear at the poem are somehow connected to the last “you” our panorama of understanding the possible implications of every object widens. Furthermore, because “One Art” is a villanelle, we are forced to re-read it with a different set of mind. And here, although the poem does not describe any particular space, there is one that has been constructed by its absence. It is a villanelle written from that place that it no more. The poem’s setting is the time right before the poetic voice has managed to overcome the lost of the “you.” It is paralyzed. Yet, the coming back and back again due to the form of the poem, creates some sort of sensation of movement. And in every re-rereading of the poem, she creates different dimensions and meanings, different perspectives. In this poem Bishop also “[emphasizes] the ordinary conception of the world through displaying the imperceptible characteristics of things by the multiplicity of perspectives.”

  5. As Alethia suggest in her essay, “The Imaginary Iceberg” can be considered an “internal close-up.” The zoom-in movement in which the iceberg is equated to the soul can only be apprehended when we reach the three last lines of the poem: “Icebergs behoove the soul/ (both being self-made from elements least visible)/ to see them so: fleshed, fair, erected indivisible.” In these last lines we can find a relationship of comparison between the soul and the iceberg because “both” share essential characteristics as being self-fashioned from components that cannot be easily appreciated. Having in mind the relationship of comparison between the soul and the iceberg, it can be inferred that the iceberg is a metaphor for the soul. In the first stanza of the poem the iceberg/soul is given an immovable and resilient quality: “Although it stood stock-still like a cloudy rock/ and all the sea were moving marble…we’d rather own this breathing plain of snow/ though the ship’s sails were laid upon the sea/ as the snow lies undissolved upon the water.” It is also worth noting the ethereal features given to the iceberg/soul, even though it is a “stock-still,” “undissolved” “rock it is “cloudy” it seems to be as a weightless “floating field.” So the contemplation of the ethereal characteristics of the iceberg/ soul that can “correct the elliptics on the sky” is really worth the eyes of the sailor/repository.