Personal Response to Elizabeth Bishop

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Elizabeth Bishop
What I admire about the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop is her combination of precise, imaginative description and thought provoking insight. The poet closely observes and vividly describes the world around her. Her famous eye for detail and original imagery gives her poetry a strong visual quality, drawing the reader into the world she describes. However, what makes her poetry particulary appealing to me is her desire to probe beneath the surface of things. We see how her close observation leads to inner reflection and moments of perception. These moments of perception helps us as readers to get a better understanding of the world in which she lives in. Her poetry is rooted in personal experiences, but has a general universal theme.

I enjoyed 'The Fish' for its unusual imagery, detailed description and uplifting epiphany. We are drawn into the poem by the opening lines 'I caught a tremendous fish' The poets respect for the fish is immediately conveyed, he is 'battered and venerable and homely'. A domestic simile helps us to visualise this huge, ancient fish, while evoking a sense of comfortable familiarity 'his brown skin hung in strips, like ancient wallpaper' Imaginative similes conjure up an image of the inside of the fish, his flesh is 'packed in like feathers', while his swim bladder is 'like a big poeny'. An interesting shift in the poem occurs when the poet looks into the fish's eyes and begins to engage with him. Observation leads to reflection. The poet empathises with the fish when she observes the five hooks that had 'grown firmly in his mouth'. Like the poet, I admire the fish for surviving the trials of tribulations of life. It is at this point that the poet achieves a moment of insight. The hooks are 'like medals with their ribbons, frayed and wavering', suggests that the poet now sees the fish as a war veteran. This is a wonderful comparison. The ancient fish is now a symbol for the resilience of the human spirit and for our...
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