INTERVIEW 7 POEMS of Elizabeth Bishop
At the FishhousesÂ (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
Â (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.Filling StationÂ (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
Â (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.Little ExerciseÂ (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
The MooseÂ (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
Â (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.RoostersÂ (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
Â (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.Visits to St. ElizabethsÂ (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
Miss Bishop Says SoÂ (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.:Â Remembering Elizabeth Bishop by Katha Pollitt
For each poem talk about the following criteria.
HOW TO INTERVIEW A POEM
Meaningâ€”This is the usual sort of information-retrieval reading that we do with any passage of prose or verse.Â We come up with a summary of greater or lesser
length giving the import of the passage as we make sense of it.
Antecedent Scenarioâ€”What has been happening before the poem starts?Â What has disturbed the status quo and set the poem in motion?
A Division into Structural Partsâ€”Because small units are more easily handled than big ones, and because the process of a poem, even one as short as sonnet, canâ€™t
be addressed all at once with a single global question like â€œWhatâ€™s going on here?â€ we divide the poem into pieces.
The Climaxâ€”In lyric poems, the various parts tend to cluster around a moment of special significanceâ€”which its attendant parts lead up to, lead away from, help to
clarify, and so on.Â The climax usually manifests itself by such things as greater intensity of tone, an especially significant metaphor, a change in rhythm, or a
change in person.Â
The Other Partsâ€”About each part, it is useful to ask how it differs from the other parts.Â What is distinctive in it by contrast to the other members of the poem?Â
Does something shift gears?Â Does the tense change?Â Does the predominant grammatical form change?Â (For example, does the poem stop emphasizing nouns and start
emphasizing participles?) Is a new person addressed? Have we left a general overlook for certain particulars?Â
Find the Skeletonâ€”What is the dynamic curve of emotion on which the whole poem is arranged?Â This asks students to discover the changes in tone as the poem
Games the Poet Plays with the Content Genreâ€”Think about the content genres of poetry and determine which genres the poem would fit.Â Most poems are more than one
kind.Â Once you have determined the genres that the poem might fit, then decide whether you think the poet has â€œchanged the rulesâ€ for this particular poemâ€”is
he/she playing games with the genre.Â In most cases, a poet writing with a known content will want to do something new and interesting with that content. (The
following list is by no means complete.)
The love poem
The hero poem
The flower poem
The sea poem
The travel poem
The birthday poem
The nature poem
The solitude poem
Toneâ€”Read the poem aloud now as if it were your own utterance.Â This activity will help you to distinguish the various tones of voice it exhibits and to name them.Â
You might need to reference #6â€”even though you know the changes in toneâ€”READ IT ALOUD!
Agencyâ€”Who is the main agent in the poem, and does the main agent change as the poem as the poem progresses?Â Dr. Vendler defines agent/agency as subjects of the
Roads Not Takenâ€”Can you imagine the poem written in a different person, or a different tense, or with the parts rearranged, or with an additional stanza, or with one
stanza left out, conjecturing why the poem might have wanted these pieces in this order?Â It is useful to think of plausible roads not taken by a poem, because they
help to identify the roads that were taken.Â This will help you understand the function of each piece of the poem within the whole, and of the dynamic curve of
emotion governing the order in which the pieces appear.
Speech Actâ€”When we classify poems by their speech acts, we draw attention to their manner of expression more than to their content.Â I can apologize for any number
of thingsâ€”my tardiness, or my mistakes, or my clothingâ€”but in each of these cases my speech act (whatever its content) is an apology.Â Similarly, I can protest
about time, or death, or loveâ€”but in every case, my speech act is a protest.Â Since the language of most poems can be thought of as a series of utterances by a
speaker, the poem expects you to track the personâ€™s successive speech acts, just as you might do in life when you might say, â€œFirst, she criticized me, then she
apologized, then she explained why she was upset, and finally she asked if we could still be friends.â€Â A poemâ€™s speech acts need to be followed and identified in
the same way. [See the handout on Speech Acts.]
Outer and Inner Structural Formsâ€”A poem can also be classified according to various aspects of its outer and inner form.Â The outer form has to do with meter,
rhyme, and stanza-form.Â In investigating the internal structure of a poem, one should try to divide it into parts along its â€œfault lines.â€Â Where does the logic
of the argument seem to break?Â Where does the poem change from first person to second person?Â Where does the major change in tense or speech act take place?Â Here
are some of the ingredients of internal structural form that will help you to explore a poem.
Sentencesâ€”The poet means for us to notice how many sentences there are in a poem, and how they relate to one another.Â Look closely at length and type of sentences
Personâ€”Determine the personâ€”first, second, third and whether that person is singular or plural.Â A change of person as poem goes along is a significant
Agencyâ€”Every sentence has a subject; the subject is the agent of the verb.Â It is important to know who â€œowns,â€ by agency, each part of every poem.
Tensesâ€”Sentences are written in tense, and tenses are also an important internal structuring aspect of the poem, making it move in time from past to present to
future.Â Tense-changes ask to be noticed.
Images or Sensual Wordsâ€”Linked words (referring especially to the senses of sight and hearing) help to structure many poems.Â These words can be all of one sort (a
collection of names of different flowers, for instance in Miltonâ€™s â€œLycidasâ€) or they can be of different sorts: that is, a series of specific nouns like â
€œflood,â€ â€œearthquake,â€ â€œfire,â€ and â€œshipwreckâ€ can all help to construct the single abstract category â€œcatastrophe.â€Â There are systematic ways in which
the concrete words that some refer to as â€œimagesâ€ may be assembled, too: they may be arranged in parallel, or in contrast, or in a ranked hierarchy.Â
Imaginationâ€”What has the poetâ€™s imagination invented that is striking, or memorable, or beautifulâ€”in content, in genre, in analogies, in rhythm, in a speaker?
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