09 January 2006

Elizabeth Bishop

Are you familiar with the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop? If you've taken any English classes in college, you probably have. I majored in electrical engineering, so the one English course I took ("Modern Poetry," credit/D/Fail, nonetheless) really opened my eyes. It's a little embarassing that I took a whole class on modern poetry and found myself responding to only one poet and then acting like I've discovered something no one else knew about -- okay, two if you count T.S. Eliot -- it's painful literary naivete, like if you came back to NYC after visiting a farm in Illinois and told your friends, "I had eggs! Have you ever had 'eggs'? They are so incredibly good! And these charming people, they live in real barns!"

But tonight as I sip my TheraFlu, I thought you might enjoy these two poems anyhow:

Filling Station


A note about "Casabianca." I had the misfortune of being asked to pick a poem to discuss with the class recitation section on the same day our professor listened in - the poor T.A.! He was very polite, and didn't laugh hysterically at my mis-pointed analysis. Instead he suggested I find a basic primer on learning the alphabet that was from England. Never found out what he meant by that. Do any of you? Honest, I want to know. In return I'll answer the electrical engineering question of your choice.

The only thing that would've let me enjoy the class more would have been if someone took me aside and showed me examples of good analytical essays about poems so that I had something to model the term paper after. What did I know? I spent four years in the basement of Becton Engineering Lab with a soldering iron amidst concrete block walls. Glad I took it Cr/D/F, and I'm glad MH lent me his Bishop term paper (yes, on different poems.) Yikes!


ps Hm, an article about what it's like to sit in section of a Yale English class. Maybe I shouldn't feel so bad.

pps Bostonians: some of the bricks in the floor of the Davis Sq. T-station are engraved with her poetry. Never found them.


G-Fav said...

Hm - standing on the burning deck


Anonymous said...


To find 'Casabianca', turn left once you go through the turnstiles, and then bear left again when you get to the bottom of the stairs, turning all the way around so that you're walking next to the inbound track, in the direction that the train on that track goes. The poem is between the stairs and the little column with the history of Davis Square on it (the one with the group picture featuring 'Person Davis', whose name always makes me wonder if his parents also had a 'Cow Bessie' and a 'Dog Spot').


G-Fav said...

Wow. Thank you Norvin, I've been wondering that a long time. (And I didn't know you were a Bishop fan!)