Can someone tell me why Bishop is such an acclamed poet. I am not trying to refute that idea, I'm only trying to see what perhaps other see and I am missing. Maybe her style is so different that I just can't get past that first layer. When I read her stuff I feel like she is keeping me at a far distance and not really letting me in. I don't know how else to describe it, but I just don't feel like her poetry is great. I do like Filling Station, somewhat and I know the Fish poem is probably the most anthologized or read in classrooms, but to me that poem seems so predictable.
Can someone help me with this?
Here's an article
Disclaimer...the views and opinions are those of the writer of the article, and no endorsement is implied
I'm not a big fan of hers. But if anyone wants to explore more of her work, a huge sample can be found here: [www.poemhunter.com] />
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/12/2006 01:48PM by lg.
In my experience, no poet writes great stuff all the time. Still, anyone who could compose a villanelle like this one has the spark of greatness inside:
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 beloved 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!) a disaster.
"I don't know how else to describe it, but I just don't feel like her poetry is great."
I agree, I don't dispute the talent, but it just doesn't do anything for me.
Thanks for the article Johnny. I don't think the author ever gets around to answering her own question, though of why Bishop is so great. And Hugh, I didn't realize that Bishop wrote that poem, which I am familiar with. Perhaps my problem with her is that she is so "not" confessional, which is the style I am drawn to, for the most part. The article says:
"Isn’t it amazing how Elizabeth Bishop still manages to elect and then make friends with her readers while never ‘confessing’ to them anything intimate about her self?"
I don't know if I feel she has made friends with me, though. Maybe aquaintances who are somewhat superficial and cordial, but not real friends.
Here's my favorite by Bishop, I love the way she uses words especially in the last sestet:
I Am in Need of Music
I am in need of music that would flow
Over my fretful, feeling fingertips,
Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,
With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.
Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low,
Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,
A song to fall like water on my head,
And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!
There is a magic made by melody:
A spell of rest, and quiet breath, and cool
Heart, that sinks through fading colors deep
To the subaqueous stillness of the sea,
And floats forever in a moon-green pool,
Held in the arms of rhythm and of sleep.
The only description of Elizabeth Bishop's descriptive lines is that they are pure diamonds. That ability of hers to stop us so that we see everyday things with crystal insight, is sufficient to make her a great poet. "The Moose" is comparable (almost) to Keats' The Eve of St Agnes.
Here's "The Moose" that was metioned previously. I'm with Les on this one; though I'm not a huge Bishop fan, I like the fact that she was a rhymer most of the time. That gets kudos from me, especially since all we seem to get from our "poets" these days is non-rhyming, non-metrical, free-form exposition.
by Elizabeth Bishop
For Grace Bulmer Bowers
From narrow provinces
of fish and bread and tea,
home of the long tides
where the bay leaves the sea
twice a day and takes
the herrings long rides,
where if the river
enters or retreats
in a wall of brown foam
depends on if it meets
the bay coming in,
the bay not at home;
where, silted red,
sometimes the sun sets
facing a red sea,
and others, veins the flats'
lavender, rich mud
in burning rivulets;
on red, gravelly roads,
down rows of sugar maples,
past clapboard farmhouses
and neat, clapboard churches,
bleached, ridged as clamshells,
past twin silver birches,
through late afternoon
a bus journeys west,
the windshield flashing pink,
pink glancing off of metal,
brushing the dented flank
of blue, beat-up enamel;
down hollows, up rises,
and waits, patient, while
a lone traveller gives
kisses and embraces
to seven relatives
and a collie supervises.
Goodbye to the elms,
to the farm, to the dog.
The bus starts. The light
grows richer; the fog,
shifting, salty, thin,
comes closing in.
Its cold, round crystals
form and slide and settle
in the white hens' feathers,
in gray glazed cabbages,
on the cabbage roses
and lupins like apostles;
the sweet peas cling
to their wet white string
on the whitewashed fences;
inside the foxgloves,
and evening commences.
One stop at Bass River.
Then the Economies
Lower, Middle, Upper;
Five Islands, Five Houses,
where a woman shakes a tablecloth
out after supper.
A pale flickering. Gone.
The Tantramar marshes
and the smell of salt hay.
An iron bridge trembles
and a loose plank rattles
but doesn't give way.
On the left, a red light
swims through the dark:
a ship's port lantern.
Two rubber boots show,
A dog gives one bark.
A woman climbs in
with two market bags,
brisk, freckled, elderly.
"A grand night. Yes, sir,
all the way to Boston."
She regards us amicably.
Moonlight as we enter
the New Brunswick woods,
hairy, scratchy, splintery;
moonlight and mist
caught in them like lamb's wool
on bushes in a pasture.
The passengers lie back.
Snores. Some long sighs.
A dreamy divagation
begins in the night,
a gentle, auditory,
slow hallucination. . . .
In the creakings and noises,
an old conversation
--not concerning us,
but recognizable, somewhere,
back in the bus:
talking, in Eternity:
names being mentioned,
things cleared up finally;
what he said, what she said,
who got pensioned;
deaths, deaths and sicknesses;
the year he remarried;
the year (something) happened.
She died in childbirth.
That was the son lost
when the schooner foundered.
He took to drink. Yes.
She went to the bad.
When Amos began to pray
even in the store and
finally the family had
to put him away.
"Yes . . ." that peculiar
affirmative. "Yes . . ."
A sharp, indrawn breath,
half groan, half acceptance,
that means "Life's like that.
We know it (also death)."
Talking the way they talked
in the old featherbed,
peacefully, on and on,
dim lamplight in the hall,
down in the kitchen, the dog
tucked in her shawl.
Now, it's all right now
even to fall asleep
just as on all those nights.
--Suddenly the bus driver
stops with a jolt,
turns off his lights.
A moose has come out of
the impenetrable wood
and stands there, looms, rather,
in the middle of the road.
It approaches; it sniffs at
the bus's hot hood.
high as a church,
homely as a house
(or, safe as houses).
A man's voice assures us
"Perfectly harmless. . . ."
Some of the passengers
exclaim in whispers,
"Sure are big creatures."
"It's awful plain."
"Look! It's a she!"
Taking her time,
she looks the bus over,
Why, why do we feel
(we all feel) this sweet
sensation of joy?
says our quiet driver,
rolling his r's.
"Look at that, would you."
Then he shifts gears.
For a moment longer,
by craning backward,
the moose can be seen
on the moonlit macadam;
then there's a dim
smell of moose, an acrid
smell of gasoline.
I know many of you may disagree with me, but I think it is more difficult to write a good poem that doesn't rhyme, because you have to pull out the musicality in other ways. I agree with you thought that there is a lot of free-form "junk" which lacks all kinds of poetic qualities, but take a rhymed poem and make not rhyme, and make it better...that's what we should all do.
I know many of you may disagree with me, but I think it is more difficult to write a good poem that doesn't rhyme, because you have to pull out the musicality in other ways.
Talia, I really have no preference as to rhymed or unrhymed poetry, though admittedly I do like the lyric quality of good rhymed poetry. I began writing unrhymed, free verse poetry like many of the posters here.
My suggestion to beginning poets and especially students/critics of rhymed poetry: Write 10 good rhymed poems, then go back and read some classic rhymed poetry. I believe that that excercise will give you a better appreciation for how hard it is to fit meaning into your given rhyme scheme.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/14/2006 12:10AM by lg.
there is a lot of free-form "junk" which lacks all kinds of poetic qualities...
I don't believe that free-form poetry is necessarily "junk." But much of what I read today that others classify as poetry is nothing more than prose in disguise. Take away the odd line breaks and add capitalization and proper punctuation and you have a paragraph or miniature essay.
It's a matter of preference, really. With rare exception, (Tennyson's "Idylls of the King" comes to mind) I just don't become as emotionally engaged in non-rhyming poetry as I do in a skillfully-written rhymed poem....like a Shakespearean sonnet, or a sweeping ballad such as "The Highwayman."
There is a lot of pure crap, rhyming and non-rhyming.
As for musicality in non-rhyming---I have no clue what that means
except that YES, poetry needs to be read out loud
to see what it sounds like, as one writes it.
In other words---it needs to sound right
but as for meter and rhyme in today's poetry---bah hum-bug.
Contemporary is just THAT---it's new and different.
We don't bind feet or wear corsettes anymore unless, well, the corsettes
are for sexy fun.
I think poetry that works, touches the human heart in some way.
For various people that means different poems.
That's why no one will ever agree here;
that, and because most poets are underpaid, overlooked jealous individuals.
I prefer Elvin Bishop to Elizabeth. I wonder if they're brother and sister? [www.google.com] />
I'll have to look up that poet Les; I do like Elvis Costello though.
Does he count?
And I am absolutely in agreement with Hugh on Bishop's "One Art."
I think it's absolutely beautiful and must have been incredibly dificult to write in villanelle form. I read somewhere that
Bishop would tape the words of a poem on a board and leave blank spots where
she couldn't find just the right word or phrasing,
until it came to her.
"One Art" is so well done---a work of art!!
She uses sarcasm and subtlety so well.
MMM what a great poem.
Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays to all!!
For those of you who have listened a bit to my stories
regarding my son who has a rare disease . . . he has had two new treatments
of gammaglobulin infusions (no side effects to this radical new treatment)
and they have brought his eosinophil count way down---
that is my Christmas present and it sure is a GREAT one.
Love to everyone,
Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 12/25/2006 03:46PM by MoonBabe.
Well said. I agree with your comments on "One Art."
Thank you for sharing the good news about your son's progress with the new treatment. What a wonderful Christmas gift. Blessings to you both.
With a knack for description she only can
Never stop til we've had our fill
Of a name of a Catholic holy man
or a piece from a game of skill
Thank you for your kind sentiments regarding my son.
I'd love to meet you one day and say "hi" if you ever come to a "Bean"
poetry night in Plymouth. It is a remarkable group
of loving poets / friends and we always love new members.
Of course, if you're a new reader, "a virgin," Annie jokingly
asks that you take something off before you read.
Have a Blessed Holiday,
Annie ought to be careful what she's asking for. I just may take her up on her offer. If by the "Bean" and Plymouth you're referring to Massachussettes, I'm not that far away down here in NJ. We do come up to Boston now and then, so I may just show up (fully clothed) some night. I'll let you know before we head up there again...probably in the spring.
LOL I thought you were from Michigan, metro-Detroit, but now that I'm realizing my goof, I must have you and Jack (?) confused.
I'm sorry---we'd still love to have you take something off here in Plymouth, MI
We have one guy with great arms and tattoos and we always tell him that we have no clue who he is, EVERY time.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/27/2006 03:01PM by MoonBabe.
I have been meaning to get to The Bean. Justa procrastinator I guess.
I have been to the poetry readings held by Bob's (Illudiumphosdx?) outfit in Wyandotte. It's on Tuesdays, and right on my way home from my weekly Red Cross thing.
If I do show up at The Bean, can I leave my hat on?
Michigan is a bit far to go for a poetry reading. I visited the Detroit area on business a few times and I remember a club in Dearborn, not too far from UM, that hosted open mikes for folk singers and poets. I don't recall the name of the place, but the two times I was there, I found the talent to be excellent for both genres. Maybe some day I'll get back. If I do, I'll be sure to let you know.
I always thought Genre would be a good name for a cat.
Either that or Rumsfeld
Sure you can leave your hat on Jack
it's other items of clothing . . . well we won't go there . . .
do come to the Bean sometime, it's fun.
Email me first so I'll know to show up and say hello
because sometimes I don't get back here as often as I should.
I just returned from FLA, thus the tardiness.
My email addy is firstname.lastname@example.org
or you can email email@example.com to be put on her mailing list---
put that in your letter heading so she know what it's about
as she deletes all unknown mail
because she caught a virus once---not the cold type.
Cheers and Happy New Year to all!!
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/04/2007 04:46AM by MoonBabe.
Well Joe I'd love to meet you one day.
I love all poetry lovers; it's a great point of commonality.
BTW---that club in Dearborn is now a strip joint.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/04/2007 01:52PM by MoonBabe.