Archive for January, 2013

…And now my heart is divided again.

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

I forgot how madly in love I was with Ginsberg…fell for Eliot…am still swooning…and am now in love with Ginsberg again. Am I destined to a life of loving dead, disturbed, brilliant, impotent, anti-semitic and/or gay men?!!

I need help.

An Old Blue Place

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

I know we aren’t supposed to get into him/it yet… but I couldn’t stop myself from digging into “Kaddish and Other Poems” (a little bit prematurely, albeit) in preparation for tomorrow’s class.

“It leaps about me, as I go out and walk down the street, look back over my shoulder, Seventh Avenue, the battlements of window office buildings, shouldering each other high, under a cloud, tall as the sky for an instant– and the sky above– an old blue place.” (Kaddish, 8).

Besides being eternally in love with internal rhyme (sky/high), and the dual use of “shoulder” here, does anyone else want to meet Ginsberg (now deceased) in that “old blue place,” a place worthy of punctuation OTHER THAN A COMMA in this ever-flowing poem?!

I’d love to have dinner with him. There, I said it. And Naomi, too, if she’s anything like Allen!

This is a picture of Elizabeth Bishop with a cat

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013


Also, and just as significant, I wanted to bring up the poem “Going to the Bakery” (173-4) since we didn’t get to talk about it in class. Such beautiful, comforting imagery (warm milk rolls that “feel/ like a baby on the arm”) quickly followed by starkly discomforting images (“Fumes of cachaca knock me over/ […] The bandage glares up, white and fresh.” The narrator clearly feels conflicted about her interaction with the man in the last three stanzas. “I give him seven cents in my/ terrific money” and calls her attempt at pleasantries “mean habit.” I’ve been struggling with the last line “Not one word more apt or bright?” as well as the personification of the moon in the first half of the poem. Thoughts???

No Pennies Necessary For My Thoughts… (I Like Benjamin’s Though)

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013


I wanted to touch on a couple of the things we spoke about in class on Friday.

The first topic of discussion being the isolated “s” in Arrival at Santos. Dr. Scanlon gave me this thought; she had read the line with an emphasis on the lonely s. Which allowed Glen Falls, New York to sound more like Glen Falllzzzzzz New York. What I’m trying to say is that when spoken that way it almost comes off as a New York accent. It is possible that Bishop was trying to have the speaker imitate the way Miss Breen says Glen Falls, and this would also infer that Miss Breen speaks often of Glen Falls. Long story short, Miss Breen is nostalgic about her home, and Bishop wanted to point this out and give Miss Breen more of a character.

Secondly, the lines “Just so the Christians, hard as nails,/ tiny as nails,/…” from Brazil, January 1, 1502, made me wonder if in some way Bishop was trying to make a jab at Christianity. Jesus was nailed to the cross, and it sounds belittling to say that the Christians are small as nails. Nails are the very thing that brought down the man that is held so highly and worshipped in the religion.

A side note:  I personally think that Christianity is a beautiful religion but Bishop doesn’t seem to agree with that sometimes and there’s nothing wrong with that either.

There were two poems in class that I wanted to briefly (and I do mean with brevity) graze. The first being Crusoe in England: well isn’t that just a beautiful lovely way to humorously bring about a profound sadness. And secondly, Manuelzinho: I appreciate the strength and the clarity of voice and also the love at the end from the speaker for this other. It is wonderful that the speaker was able to learn from this man that apparently test their patience but also their reality (reality as in the beliefs they held about the world they lived in, the beliefs they didn’t want to question but learned to). It is by far, one of my favorite poems. Actually both are a favorite now. And in the first group of poems we read from Bishop I would say that The Man-Moth wins the prize for the most intriguing and wanting poem. Wanting in the sense that I want more, I want to know more, I want to discover more. In fact I want Bishop herself to sit down and tell me what exactly what this poem is about and at the same time I do not want her to do so. I don’t want her to ruin any precious preconceptions I already have about the poetry. But I do want to thank her. That is not quite all but that will do.

Things that make me think of Tangled

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

The Armadillo isn’t my favorite Bishop poem, I wish Bishop had focused more on the armadillo in the poem-it’s only given three lines-especially since the title brings the focus to it. I also wish I knew more of Bishop’s life while she wrote this, I think that would give a bit more insight into the poem, whether Bishop wanted it to or not. And although this isn’t my favorite Bishop poem, I love the stark difference between watching these beautiful lanterns float up into the sky versus the destruction they create when they fall. I also loved the idea that someone brought up in class, that the Armadillo is a representation of Robert Lowell. I think the armadillo represents Lowell in relation to his depression. Instead of seeing the lanterns as beautiful floating lights in the sky, he was there when the beauty turned into destruction. He couldn’t do anything but hide and run away, much like some of the effects of depression. I think making the armadillo represent a person takes the poem to another level, and I already like how many levels this poem has the more I read it (religion, beauty vs. danger, religious love vs. romantic love, black and white). That is one thing I admire about Bishop, how her poems seem to be very straight forward the first time you read them, but as you re-read they become less and less one-sided.


One Reading After/Before Several Readings

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

I felt almost obligated to comment on “Crusoe in England” because I have been to Oxford and London. Soon we will be discussing more of “The Bishop’s” poetry and this one would become just another leaf under the pile we have been playing in together. Can i say i was peer pressured into this? I chose this poem to take a closer gander because after reading it i felt a sense of depression in it and reclusiveness which is a theme that i have found in almost all the authors i have learned about while being an English major. Our judgemental society at some point has left us all feeling like outcasts.

I did not know what the meaning of Crusoe was after reading this poem the first several times after i had made my own assumptions and associations. After i felt like i had finally lassoed the beast, i looked up the title. I look at titles of poetry similar to directions on a test. I always forgot to read the directions:(. Robinson Crusoe was a Scottish castaway who lived for four years on the Pacific islands called “Más a Tierra”.  Sounds like lots of terror in English but it means, more ground, in spanish. I’m sure Crusoe had, “Time enough to play with names.” After i looked up the meaning of the title it served as a confirmation of my mere assumption, but I’m sure i could be wrong.

If this poem was a roller coaster it would be the Volcano at KD. Strap your seat buckles and only secure the most precious of loose articles.

As i read bishop’s poetry i put a positive (+) or negative (-) charge to each stanza.the first stanza acts as a  developing shot like at the beginning of a movie. near the end of the stanza the picture begins,”But my poor old island’s still/ un-rediscovered, un-renamable./ None of the books has ever got it right.” Beware of Bishops use of “books” in this poem, in the seventh stanza she revisits and i will revisit them. The first stanza receives a (-).

The second stanza is in past tense. She discusses in the second stanza about how in a earlier time she could see the beauty in spite of the negative stuff surrounding her. Are we familiar with “negative stuff” surrounding us? “Closing in and closing in, but never quite,/ glittering and glittering, though the sky/ was mostly overcast.” The beginning of the stanza simply describes her island with great imagery.The second stanza has a (+)

The third stanza begins with description but the first question is asked and doubt of oneself begins.”Was that why it rained so much?/And why sometimes the whole place hissed?” Bishop plays with the words “very and vary” in this poem and it begins in the third stanza. Varied is always positive in my eyes and i assume so to Bishop as well.”The beaches were all lava, variegated,/ black, red, and white, and gray;/ the marbled colors made a fine display.” Third stanza gets a (+).

The fourth stanza begins the slowly but surely gradual digression of the person while the person progresses in age or experiences. More questions arise and even begin the fourth stanza.”Do i deserve this? I suppose i must./ I wouldn’t be here otherwise. Was there/ a moment when i actually chose this?” The big turn in the poem is at the end of this stanza.”Pity should begin at home.” so the more/ pity i felt, the more i felt at home. Reminded me of the, Death Cab for Cutie, song,”Marching bands of Manhattan”. “Sorrow drips into your heart through a pinhole/ Just like a faucet that leaks and there is comfort in the sound/ But while you debate, half empty or half full It slowly rises, your love is gonna drown”, are the lyrics it reminded me off. This stanza has more of a quadrant plain vibe (+,-).

The fifth stanza continues the play of “vary” and “very.” Always beware when the sun sets, especially, if it’s the same odd sun. The repetition of the word “one” in this stanza means there is less “vary.” She even gets drunk in this stanza. This stanza gets a (-).

Ok, this whole breakdown is getting kind of lengthy bare with me for one more stanza or two. What i assume as, the key, is coming up.

Stanza five  is colossal because she answers her own question and she is right.”Because i didn’t know enough.” Books are revisited in this stanza in a negative light. “Greek Drama or astronomy? The books/ I’d read were full of blanks;” When a poet talks about poetry in their poem, watch out (the key)! “They flash upon that inward eye, which is the bliss…” The bliss of what?”/One of the first things that i did/ when i got back was look it up.” I laughed at this part even though it is one of the most meaningful lines. We are confronted with the ongoing battle of literal meaning vs. spiritual meaning or denote vs. connote or socially accepted vs. natural. She “recited” the poetry connotes temporarily spitting it out rather then swallowing the poetry and digesting it. The speaker does not understand the lines of poetry so she looks to the a big mean strict dictionary to find its meaning. Don’t get me wrong, i’m all for looking up big words but there were no big or unusual words is the section of the poetry she recited. This is quadrant plain caliber (+,-)

I’ll end on the ninth stanza because this got out of hand and too far into mind. The end of the ninth stanza speaks to the socially accepted vs. the natural and i assume her entire argurment when she dissects the term Geography in her poetry. “For ages, registering their flora,/ their fauna, their geography.” What is flora? I had to look that up!




The Bishop Challenge

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Give us a decent sestina.  You must follow the designated word pattern and will impress us if you can also maintain a regularish meter.  A few cheating hints: choose your six words and, on a page, put them in at the ends of the lines where they must appear so you can visualize it.  Choose at least one word that is flexible—e.g., may be used as a noun or a verb or has several definitions (break), or has homophones (to, two, too).

The Rules:

Each end word is represented here by a number.  In six full stanzas, words at ends of lines must follow this order:

Stanza 1: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Stanza 2: 6, 1, 5, 2, 4, 3

Stanza 3: 3, 6, 4, 1, 2, 5

Stanza 4: 5, 3, 2, 6, 1, 4

Stanza 5: 4, 5, 1, 3, 6, 2

Stanza 6: 2, 4, 6, 5, 3, 1

Stanza 7 (envoy): 2—5, 4—3, 6—1 (three lines, first word is internal and second at line’s end.  For our purposes, if you get all six words into your envoy, any order is okay.)

Bishop’s First Death in Nova Scotia

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

So far of the Elizabeth Bishop poems we have read, my favorite is First Death in Nova Scotia. Oh my goodness, the imagery in this poem makes me so ecstatic when I should be depressed! The descriptions of the cold and snow when describing not only the weather, but the young boy’s corpse is enough to make me feel the chill myself. I especially enjoy the line where Bishop compares her cousin Arthur’s coffin to a “little frosted cake.” The winter imagery is fantastically done and evokes emotions for me of my first funeral. I feel that in part this poem is about Bishop’s conscious first experience with death and funerals. I admire the way she also makes the story similar to a child’s view of the situation with references to princes and royalty and Jack Frost alongside of death. These child-like images contrast as well as try to make sense of the reality of death. I believe this poem also shows us the beauty of death while still expressing the coldness and sadness of it. God, I just cannot get enough of this poem!

Astral projection

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Elizabeth Bishop’s poem, “Questions of Travel,” is quite fascinating and reflects on what I believe the tempo between societies. Often in America we want it now and there is no choice to have it any other way. Taking unnecessary time is losing moments on life. The poem starts by creating an image of many things from which I believe are natural descriptions but represent a city. A city filled with bustling people. The main character is looking through their own eyes and seems to leave their body going up and up and up viewing the world from the atmosphere. This is achieved by Bishop’s space relationship of the water fall, mountains, and a boat. Focusing on the crowded water or city streets and moving to a mountain visualizing the entirety of the city and branching out further to see a ship but of course a ship is not bigger than a mountain. The space relationship between the mountain and ship creates a dimension that the only way to perceive such objects as relative in size is due to some ground difference or distance. The ship being comparative to a mountain would mean that the ship was close and the mountain far. In a photo we would state it as the ship being in the fore ground and the mountain in the background. Not only is the out of body or space difference made between seeing the people as a whole but also seeing the world (America) in a retrospective view when the sun is seen the other way. It is a long trip home looking at the sun a different way. So far from home and body the speaker mentions a play: that the play she is watching and finds queer. This concept shows even further that the character is looking from an internal view but exempt from the people’s sight. The things that are relating to people are described as fast. Suddenly solid descriptions and images are brought to the front slowing the pace. A question is asked about should we be able to have our cake and eat it or should we have all our dreams thought up and achieved. The tone seems almost melancholy or dreadful. The speaker then explains if we have all we want and keep going we will miss all of the simple things that we would otherwise over look: the meaningful things in life. Missing the lives of other people and losing the quality of life. Ending in final italics I believe the poem asks a final question and leaves one last thought. Why can’t we just stay still and accept what is around us? That America is whizzing by and losing sight of what is truly important.

What I like about this poem is that it really relates to how I feel today. I’m always trying to work faster and get everything done, but at what cost? I’m losing many moments. Many moments writers should expreince. Many moments that make life worth living. I am also acceping that some irresponsibility is important. Getting work done and understanding is important. However, it really touches “home”. We as a society have gotten so caught up in being faster and more efficient that quality is left behind. Expereince is not fully “experienced” and the outcome is less than satisfactory. Sigh–Oh *somberly, (to time) whenever will we catch up and get a cup of tea? To watch the flush maroon and lilac meadows of death and rebirth. To see the daisie’s smile and the gumballs fall. Peering from the looking glass to watch the ants every trail or mount built. To feel again the vines of such delicate serpentine green wrap around our toes, and to view the fly fishing scuttling across the rapids blue.

One Art as a tag question?

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

In Friday’s class we talked about how the voice in many of Bishop’s poems is not necessarily Bishop herself, but a speaker tailored to the poem’s intent. In ‘One Art’, which we are reading for tomorrow’s class, this idea also comes into play.

Unlike many of the works we read last week, this poem is not rooted in a physical/visceral experience but rather uses form (the villanelle) to control or contain something that is uncontrollable. In my mind, loss is something that happens to you and art-making is something you are able to control completely. The content and the form of the poem are at odds with each other. The imagery here is focused on general ideas, rather than specific experiences.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:

faces, and names, and where it was you meant

to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

The poem seems instructional to me, like a sort of how-to guide. The reader can feel isolated here because 1) the speaker seems to know more than the reader or has a sense of authority and 2) the reader is being spoken to directly, like they will have to put what she is saying into practice.  Do we believe the voice?

I don’t know what to think exactly yet, but to me the detachment from the speaker’s point of view as she lists all of these things doesn’t seem quite real to me. The ‘things’ lost here (some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent) are a sort of list of epic abstractions, as if they don’t mean anything at all anymore? I  I should be drawing some conclusions about the intent of the poem and I’ m just stuck. Kind of like I locked myself out of my apartment and Elizabeth Bishop has hidden the spare key somewhere very unlikely. And it is raining.