Elizabeth Bishop's Poetry

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Elizabeth Bishop poses interesting questions delivered by means of a unique style. Do you agree? Focus on themes and stylistic features.

In my opinion, Elizabeth Bishop has a unique style of asking interesting questions. Bishop invites us along on the journey with her. She does this by her “painterly eye” which she has been praised for. In her poems she takes the ordinary and turns it into the extraordinary. As a reader, I wonder why she goes into so much detail. There is a story behind each of her poems. Her poems “First Death in Nova Scotia” and “In the Waiting Room” are about childhood experiences. She uses great detail in her poems and we feel like we are apart of it. This can be clearly seen in Bishop’s poem “The Fish”.

“The Fish” is an example of where Bishop turns something so plain into the extraordinary. She takes fishing and turns it into a seventy-six-line poem. This poem recalls a time when Bishop went fish in a rented boat. Bishop makes a clear statement in the opening line of the poem, “I caught a tremendous fish”. The adjective tremendous is very effective, I feel. In the first four lines, Bishop stated how she caught a huge fish and stared at it beside her boat. She didn’t haul the fish into her boat. I question why she didn’t bring it straight on board. Bishop’s delight in catching the fish soon gives way to an emotional involvement with the fish. She compares his eyes to her own and she notes that the irises are “backed and packed with tarnished tinfoil”. The image is emphasized by assonance and alliteration. It was a big personal achievement to catch the huge fish. Bishop began to enjoy her triumph. It was a big moment for her. She imagined that her feeling of victory filled up the rented boat. Meanwhile, the big fish was still partly in the water.  Then she did something unusual. She released the fish she had caught: ‘And I let the fish go’. I wonder why she had mercy on the fish and decided to let it go.

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