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The poem Sestina by Elizabeth Bishop is, in my opinion, not only about emotion and confusion, but also tells a story of Elizabeth Bishop's life

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Liang Chen The poem Sestina by Elizabeth Bishop is, in my opinion, not only about emotion, confusion and fate, but also tells a story of Elizabeth Bishop's life. The actual meaning of the poem is unclear but, what is clear is full of emotion, and is closely linked to the spiritual world. At the tender age of one Elizabeth Bishop lost her father, she lived with her grandmother until six years old. The reason for all the confusion in the poem is because it is about the confusion she felt as a child, the poem is about childhood's phantasies, a remembrance by the point of view of a child; and this is how Bishop draws a connection between herself and the Child in her poem. Apart from the confusion in the poem, there are some factors that are obvious and clear. Things like the time, place, and the people involved are all very straight forward. "September rain falls on the house." The reference to September tells the reader that it is in autumn, I think the poet chose autumn as the time because it's a very gloomy time, just like that period in her life. "In the failing light, the old grandmother sits in the kitchen..." ...read more.


It also broke the chain of thoughts going through the grandmother's head whilst looking at the almanac. "...It's time for tea now..." This is the first time the poet makes direct reference to the child, so far in the poem we have being focusing on the grandmother, although we know the child is there we don't really think much of he or her. By hearing the grandmother speak to the child we draw our attention from her and onto the child. In the third stanza we are shown another link between tears and rain. "...the teakettle's small hard tears dance like made on the hot black stove, the way the rain must dance on the house." This time the connection drawn is from the droplets of water from the kettle, using similes Bishop's brings back the idea of tears without making direct relation to the grandmother. "...the old grandmother hangs up the clever almanac on its string." Again referring to the grandmother as old the poet has recreated the feeling of fragility. Hanging the almanac on a string in the kitchen tells us that it is not often used, it is like the memories the grandmother would rather forget. ...read more.


"The grandmother sings to the marvellous stove..." So far in the poem the word Marvel has been used as a brand for the stove, never in the sense of describing the stove. Yet finally for the first time we see the word being used as an adjective describing the stove. When thinking of stoves we think of a dirty and blackened stove, and no matter how much we have seen the word Marvel being used with the stove we never thought of it as being a description of the stove. But finally we see the word for its true meaning, stripping away that mental image of dirty and black, this stove might actually have been a very clean and shinny one. This is also a reference to new beginnings and a fresh start, deleting the old dirty image and replacing with the new and clean. "...the child draws another inscrutable house." The last line of this poem is the real reference to a new beginning. The fact that the child drew a new house shows that they are moving on with life. It doesn't matter how inscrutable the house is, the emphasis here is the word another meaning something else, maybe still the same, but at least they are moving on. Using language techniques and clever choice of scenario Elisabeth Bishop has told a short story from the pages of her life. ...read more.

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