Lady Sings the Blues

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What is a song but a poem set to music? Take away the music from a good song and the rhythm of the words will create its own musical sound. "Songs For a Colored Singer", a poem written by Elizabeth Bishop, is a song without the music. Bishop's use of repetitive rhymes creates the lyrical, song like, structure to her poem. The voice of the song belongs to a black woman who encounters adversity throughout the poem. The sum of the elements, a black woman singing about hard times, equal one distinct style of music, namely the blues. Bishop divides the poem into four parts. Through each part the poem, Bishop uncovers different aspects of the colored woman. What Bishop reveals is the difficult situations which face underprivileged black citizens in America. Bishop's poem has similarities to a song by Billie Holiday, and is linked to a Langston Hughes poem. By using the voice of a colored singer, Bishop exposes the inequality of early twentieth century African-Americans.

Bishop examines the life of a colored domestic woman and portrays the difficult existence through song. Part one of the poem portrays a melancholy domestic who is having trouble with her man, a classic situation for the blues. The use of simple rhymes and syllable structure in the first stanza forecasts the lyrical tone of the poem. To create a sense of flow, the first and third stanzas have identical rhyme patterns, and the second and fourth stanzas also mirror each other. The use of the same line at the end of the second and fourth stanzas, "Le Roy, you're earning too much money now," (Part 1. Lines 13 & 26), distinguishes this poem as a song. Rarely are lines repeated in poems, but the use of repetition is essential in songs, because of the need for a chorus. Part one of the poem brings to light the inequality among race and class. Due to the economic conditions of African-Americans, they find themselves working as domestics for much wealthier Caucasians. The singer...
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