reading between the lines analysis of elizabeth bishop

Reading between the Lines: Analysis of Elizabeth Bishop

Anthony Burgess said, “If you want to be considered a poet, you will have to show mastery of the petrarchan sonnet form or the sestina. Your musical efforts must begin with well-formed fugues. There is no substitute for craft… Art begins with craft, and there is no art until craft has been mastered.” Indeed through her mastery of the inevitable traits and characteristics of poetry, Elizabeth Bishop had become a poet that was looked upon with awe.

Bishop, who had considered quality against quantity, left only a mere hundred plus of her poems. She was a person with a strong character and had considered herself more as a man; Even having notable affairs with women like Lota de Macedo Soares and Alice Methfessel. This idealism may have been brought by her struggle during her younger years, for her father have died before she even turned one and her mother went insane by the time she was five. Since then she had to cope and live with different relatives who she sees as people who only “pity” her.

In her writing, a form of sanctuary she had treasured, Bishop has used different styles and techniques exploring every imaginable pattern. There are notable sestinas, some poems with rhymes, and others appear to be free verses. It is note-worthy to see and understand that the majority of her poems discussed the places she have traveled and stayed at. Such were the “Arrival at Santos,” “Cape Breton,” “First Death in Nova Scotia,” “View of the Capitol from the Library of Congress,” and a few others. It is her superb memory that has made her a more powerful writer, earning her awards like the Pulitzer Prize in 1956, the National Book Award, and the Neustadt International Prize for literature.

Elizabeth Bishop therefore can be said as a master when it comes to poetry. Her magnificent vocabulary and vivid imagination, accompanied by her perfectionist manner, have put not only flesh but sinew as well in her works.


In the poem “Sestina,” Bishop traverses the ideas of death and the melancholy of an everyday setting through the playful eyes of a child.

The poem, almost perfectly following the pattern for a sestina, focuses on a certain feeling—sorrow. The repetition and symbols for tears as used and apparently seen throughout the poem, shows us what the theme is all about. There are the tears that are constantly being kept by the grandmother, the storm in the setting, the tea kettle’s small hard tears, the man with buttons like tears, and the little moons that fall down like tears.

            Though there is the idea that the poem is predictable, since the pattern for a sestina is pre-determined and cannot be changed as easily, Elizabeth Bishop had made her “Sestina” astounding and beyond compare.

            Carefully following the natural format for a sestina, Bishop created a setting that depicts a normal day with a brewing storm. It is to quote that the poem showed a sequence. A sequence wherein there is a rearrangement of words. Though it might be plainly explained by the pattern used by the poet, the title itself seems to convey something else. And since the center of the poem is a child, it might be said that the format of the poem, a sestina, is used to reason out how the child views what is happening around him; rearranging everything until at last it all makes sense.

            In “Sestina,” comprising of seven stanzas, each with six lines except for the last stanza with only three, it is noticeable that Elizabeth Bishop didn’t followed the last requirement of the pattern she used. Supposedly, the last stanza should have the six words, exactly how she have used them in the first stanza. However, Bishop made it different. Instead of “house, grandmother, child, stove, almanac tears,” she wrote “tears, almanac, grandmother, stove, child, house.”

"Looking for a Similar Assignment? Order now and Get a Discount!

Get Better Grades Effortlessly
Calculate your paper price
Pages (550 words)
Approximate price: -

Why Work with Us

Top Quality and Well-Researched Papers

We always make sure that writers follow all your instructions precisely. You can choose your academic level: high school, college/university or professional, and we will assign a writer who has a respective degree.

Professional and Experienced Academic Writers

We have a team of professional writers with experience in academic and business writing. Many are native speakers and able to perform any task for which you need help.

Free Unlimited Revisions

If you think we missed something, send your order for a free revision. You have 10 days to submit the order for review after you have received the final document. You can do this yourself after logging into your personal account or by contacting our support.

Prompt Delivery and 100% Money-Back-Guarantee

All papers are always delivered on time. In case we need more time to master your paper, we may contact you regarding the deadline extension. In case you cannot provide us with more time, a 100% refund is guaranteed.

Original & Confidential

We use several writing tools checks to ensure that all documents you receive are free from plagiarism. Our editors carefully review all quotations in the text. We also promise maximum confidentiality in all of our services.

24/7 Customer Support

Our support agents are available 24 hours a day 7 days a week and committed to providing you with the best customer experience. Get in touch whenever you need any assistance.

Try it now!

Calculate the price of your order

Total price:

How it works?

Follow these simple steps to get your paper done

Place your order

Fill in the order form and provide all details of your assignment.

Proceed with the payment

Choose the payment system that suits you most.

Receive the final file

Once your paper is ready, we will email it to you.

Our Services

No need to work on your paper at night. Sleep tight, we will cover your back. We offer all kinds of writing services.


Essay Writing Service

No matter what kind of academic paper you need and how urgent you need it, you are welcome to choose your academic level and the type of your paper at an affordable price. We take care of all your paper needs and give a 24/7 customer care support system.


Admission Essays & Business Writing Help

An admission essay is an essay or other written statement by a candidate, often a potential student enrolling in a college, university, or graduate school. You can be rest assurred that through our service we will write the best admission essay for you.


Editing Support

Our academic writers and editors make the necessary changes to your paper so that it is polished. We also format your document by correctly quoting the sources and creating reference lists in the formats APA, Harvard, MLA, Chicago / Turabian.


Revision Support

If you think your paper could be improved, you can request a review. In this case, your paper will be checked by the writer or assigned to an editor. You can use this option as many times as you see fit. This is free because we want you to be completely satisfied with the service offered.

Get better grades effortlesslyIt’s cheaper than you might think

Effortlessly get the essays and grades you need. You can now get any essay, on any subject and at ANY deadline with just 10 minutes of your time (or less). Your professor will love you for it!