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Speech introducing the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop

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Questions of a Woman A speech introducing the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop My fellow students and writers, welcome. The honour of speaking to you, the poets of the future, has been bestowed upon me and I hope I will not disappoint. As Stephen Spender once said 'I fear I cannot make an amusing speech as I read that all geniuses are devoid of humour'. Today I will be speaking about one of the greatest female poets of the twentieth century, and one of my own personal favourites, Elizabeth Bishop. 'There's nothing more embarrassing than being a poet really'. The words of this modest poet convey the shy hidden qualities of a woman who was spectacular in being unspectacular. Bishop was never preoccupied with the obsolescent idea of being a poet. This gave her a sincerity that transposed to her poetry in expressing the emotional journey that was her life. Her poetry echoes a life well lived with extremes of emotion from the joy of heightened awareness, to abject isolation and depression. Elizabeth Bishop was born in America in 1911. Her father died shortly after her birth and at the age of five Bishop lost her mother to mental illness. ...read more.


She asks 'Should we have stayed at home wherever that may be?' which shows Bishop's great loneliness in searching for belonging. In this poem she also questions the human need to travel to strange foreign places. It foregrounds the issue of whether the tourist's quest stems from an innocent desire to savour landscapes of difference or whether it might have a darker motive, resembling the imperialistic desire to conquer and acquire other lands. She then asks if it is childishness that causes us 'to rush to see the sun the other way around'. More humorously this poem signifies the limitations of human knowledge and understanding of foreign cultures. After all are we not all guilty of inwardly complaining of the intrusive tourists that plague our country annually? Bishop asks 'Is it right to be watching strangers in a play in this strangest of theatres?' However Bishop's argument promoting the merits of travel will banish the negative thoughts of even the most xenophobic among us. I feel many will enjoy the theatrical differences conveyed in this poem as Bishop is so wry and honest about the differences between locals and tourists. ...read more.


However, Bishop manages to do both successfully in her striking and distinctive poetry that will give much pleasure for years to come. Her poetry covers topics from death to family and from travel to morality. Her keen eye for detail, her accurate observations and her simple, concise description of the world around us makes Elizabeth Bishop's poetry an animated read. Her poetry boasts genuine feeling which originates from her own harsh experiences in life and often expresses a greater understanding of life and death. Her pleasing style makes her poetry a firm favourite among many amateur writers and poetry lovers. I hope I have instilled in you today the joys of reading the poetry of one of the most influential females of the last century. I will now leave you with a final quote from Elizabeth Bishop's poem called 'Poem'. This poem maps the reader's experience of reading poetry, from indifference to recognition of a common humanity. 'Life and the memory of it cramped, dim, on a piece of Bristol board, dim, but how alive, how touching in detail--the little that we get for free, the little of our earthly trust' Thank you for your attention today. You have been a wonderful audience. ...read more.

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