Elizabeth Bishop Roosters

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Throughout history, poets have existed to create works that spark emotions from their readers. One poet in particular, who virtually mastered this technique, was Elizabeth Bishop. Born in 1911, Bishop grew to be a well-known poet. Her works gained national attention, and her writing style brought her fame.

Elizabeth Bishop was born in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1911. She began her young life in New England, and later moved to Nova Scotia in Canada after her father died and her mother was committed. After basic education, Bishop attended Vassar College in the state of New York. Bishop met Mary McCarthy, and they worked together on a literary magazine while attending Vassar called Con Spirito. Bishop graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1934. After graduating, Bishop pursued her literary career and became wealthy as a result. Due to the overwhelming popularity of her first publication, North and South, Bishop edited and re-released it. With the publication's new makeover, the popularity increased earning Bishop the Nobel Prize for Poetry in 1956.

Bishop's works were extensive and thought provoking. Although many of her publications were magazine submissions (The New Yorker), Bishop released different collections of her poems. Questions of Travel (1965) focused on many of the settings she saw and felt while living in Brazil. Brazil (1967) was a travel book of poems about Brazil's surroundings. An Anthology of 20th Century Brazilian Poetry (1972) is exactly what it labels, Brazilian poetry. Geography III (1976) was her last collection of poems that earned her the National Book Critics Circle Award. Bishop died from a cerebral aneurysm in Boston on October 6, 1979.

Due to Bishop's magnificent following of readers, her poems have survived over twenty years after her death. There are many poems that carry an underlying meaning, and one of Bishop's in particular is Roosters. Roosters, is a poem of uncertainty and power. The poem addresses the Bible story of Peter's denial that he was a disciple of Jesus Christ. Jesus told Peter that by the time the rooster crows, Peter would deny any knowledge of Jesus three times. As the evening passed, three times Peter was questioned about Jesus and three times he denied Jesus' existence.

Roosters starts off with a description of the surroundings and atmosphere. The setting develops a gloomy and dark arena for the reader to delve into:

At four o'clock

in the gun-metal blue dark

we hear the first crow of the first cock

just below

the gun-metal blue window

and immediately there is an echo

off in the distance,

then one from the backyard fence,

then one, with horrible insistence,

grates like a wet match

from the broccoli patch,

flares, and all over town begins to catch.



The different uses of adjectives maintain the obscurity of the scene. The narrator seems annoyed by the continuous crowing of the rooster first thing in the morning. By wanting to put an end to the crowing, he/she views the dark and the window as "gun-metal blue". It appears, if the narrator was fully awake, they would shoot the rooster to keep him from crowing. In response, an echo of other roosters rang out across town. The narrator expresses his/her feelings of disgust by stating, "with horrible insistence". The annoyance carries on, as the roosters' chests "planned to command and terrorize the rest".

Bishop begins to illustrate the awkward usage of a "stupid" icon like the rooster:

over our beds

from rusty iron sheds

and fences made from old bedsteads,

over our churches

where the tin rooster...
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