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Elizabeth Bishop

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Added by: TrizZ
A sestina is a seven stanza poem with 6 lines in every stanza except for the last one, where there are only three. If you look at the last word in every line of the first stanze you realize that house, almanac, stove, grandmother, child, and almanac are used over and over again as the last word of every line, except the last stanza where there are two words in every line. The reason why Elizabeth Bishop titled her poem after the form it was written in was because she wanted the reader to understand the way a child sees. A child rearranges things until it makes sense, the way the words are rearranged over and over again. The almanac represents the domestic. It's secular and full of information. You have this domestic scene with a stove a grandmother and a child...but then you have tears. The tears tips the poem towards the absurdity. The child can sense the grandmother's tears even though she is trying to hide it. The child expresses this through the picture she drew if a man with buttons like tears,, and by watching the teakettle's small hard tears dance like mad. And in the last stanze where it ends with an "inscrutable house," the last thing that should be inscrutable is your house. But in this case there are many symbols and the child is having a difficult time making sense out of things, so even though you have this domestic scene, it isn't really. I think that the tears are from the lack of the grandmother's children, the child's mother. Maybe that's the unspoken reason.
Studying sestinas
Added by: Phil Hey
If you're studying sestinas, you have to be familiar with this one. Notice how it both follows some rules and breaks some. Nobody is better at modern form than Elizabeth Bishop.
Added by: Elizabeth Maul
Another point I found to be interesting is that the poem makes reference to a child and a grandmother. And Elizabeth Bishop's mother died and her Grandmother took care of her for a majority of her life.
studying sestinas
Added by: Joseph Kalitrie
The poem tells of the present and future, while giving hints of the characters pasts. The Grandmother's unhappiness shows how something in her past must have been unpleasant, and is now affecting her.
Added by: Merdelin Martinez
The "Setina" by elizabeth Bishop is about a grandmother who is going through a difficult time in her life. Even though she is going through dificult times she finds the strength to tr to hide her feelings from her grandson.
Added by: Merdelin Martinez

The “Sestina” by Elizabeth bishop is a formal verse of the sestina. It has six stanzas of six times, each and three line stanza. The last stanza doesn’t end how is supposed to end; because a sestina is suppose to end with the key words in the same order it started. This one doesn’t. Elizabeth bishop include all the words but didn’t follow the rules of doing it in same order it started. This “Sestina” by Elizabeth Bishop is about a grandmother who is going through a difficult time in her life and the grandson who lives with her. Even though the grandmother is going through bad times, she finds the strength to try to hide her feelings from her grandson. The grandmother believes in the predictions of the almanac, while the child is a normal playful kid like any other kid. The almanac wants to give a message to the grandmother and the child.
In the beginning of the Sestina it is a raining day. I consider a sad day, because the rain gives me a sense of a crying sky. The grandmother is trying to distract herself from the pain or the problem that she might be having. She is using the jokes from the almanac, as a way of reliving her pain. To not show the child her tears, she talks and laughs by reading the almanac. The grandmother believes that the almanac had predicted these rainy September days. On this raining day, she was also going to be crying as long as the rainy day. A grandmother would be the only one to understand the mining of the almanac. This is because of the knowledge that a person acquires with age. Even though the grandmother was going through this entire dilemma she would still continues to act calmly and naturally in front of the child.

The child, like any other child, would get entertained by anything. The child is not listening to what the grandmother is reading in the almanac. This is too boring for the child, so the child finds other ways to entertain himself. ”The child is watching the teakettle’s small hard tears dance like mad on the hot black stove”. The child is in another world. It is exciting for him to watch the bubbles come up one after the other. But even
though he is distracted by the teakettle’s tears, he still notices the grandmother trying to hide her tears. The child continues to be somewhere else and drawing something. The child “draws a rigid house and a winding pathway, then the child put in the picture a man with buttons like tears”. The child is drawing the house he is in and then he adds a man to the drawing. That man could be his grandfather and the button like tears might be the grandmothers crying for the death of the grandfather. The death of the grandfather is the reason why the grandmother keeps on crying.
The grandmother gets tired of reading the almanac and hangs it up. But it looks like the almanac doesn’t want to be hanging up there. The almanac wants to get down and it feels like the almanac wants to tell the grandmother and the child something. As it “hovers half open above the child, hovers above the old grandmother and her teacup full of dark brown tears”. The almanac probably wants to let them know that with time the wind is going to take away the tears. The tears were brought up by the death of the grandfather. Like we all know most of the people after time can recuperate from the death of a love one and the almanac is just reminding the grandmother and the child that things are going to get better as time passes.

There is a little argument between the stove and the almanac. The stove believes that things just happen because of destiny not because someone says it is going to happen. The almanac believes that he can predict what is going to happen and that things don’t happen just to happen.
In this sestina, Elizabeth Bishop is exposing the reader to a poem of the real live of certain people. She describes to the reader how a grandmother’s love is so great that she would not care about her own suffering. The grandmother would just try to hide her real feeling, because she doesn’t want the child to suffer as she is suffering. Elizabeth Bishop is showing the reader how a child just don’t stop being a child even though certain things happened, like death. She also let us sees that many people believe in certain things and trust them. In this case the grandmother believes in the prediction of the almanac, blindly without questioning it.

Added by: Aspen
I noticed most people saying this poem is about a grandmother and her grandson. But I've always thought of the child as a little girl, because my gramma showed me this poem when I was a little girl.

Just thought this was interesting, that the gender of the child is never mentioned, so most people assume it is a boy, much as in Edgar Allen Poe's short story "The Tell-tale Heart".
Added by: Melissa
Grandson or grand daughter? I think it isnt specified because Bishop wanted to show that these circummstances occur to everybody. It makes it more universal, applying to everybody.
If you have noticed this poem is filled with cycles. There is the water cycle. Evaporation of the boiling water and percipitaion outside. The almanac predicts things through cycles and patterns. The structure is a cycle. There is a specific pattern of the last words in every line in each stanza, but it is complicated, it doesn't make sense. Just like this poem when you first read it and the inscrutible house. inscrutible means hard to understand. This cycle of life is hard for the child to comprehend.
Dieing in part of a cycle. It cannot be prevented. Bishop wanted to show that and it is hard to get through.
I also think that the man the child draws is his/her father. The buttons show authority or something to do witht eh military. In the very next line the word "proudly" is used. WHne i think of rpoud, i think of protecting your country. The Marvel stove was used a while agho, also which could mean in a time of war
Added by: Ryan
Okay, I think we're going on about this in the wrong direction. Notice the formality the author chooses in her wording throughout the poem. It's "the grandmother" and "the child." Not "the granddaughter," or "grandson." It is a "rigid," and "inscrutable," house. And even in that--it is not a home, but a house. Similarly, the grandmother hides her sorrow from the child, much like someone would hide their feelings when they are in the company of strangers.

Okay, now use this as a springboard and let's just assume that the author is talking about herself. The author's father had died when she was young, and she ended up spending much of her childhood, being bounced from family to family, first between her GRANDPARENTS and then afterwards her aunt.

In her own words, Ms. Bishop said she always felt like "a guest" when she was living with her family. As if she never felt like she truly belonged there, hence the formality that you see her choosing when she references the characters, and the house.

Also, notice that the almanac predicted what we all agree is a death. However, the sorrow felt is only known by a GRANDMOTHER. Everyone seems to be suggesting that it's her husband who is dead. A wife can mourn the death of her husband. Why is this something known only to a grandmother? There is great signifigance that the author places on Grandmother--perhaps she is referring to the fact that it is her son who is dead, and she, as the grandmother is left to take care of her granddaughter. That would make more sense than if it was her husband who had die, no?

Hey, I'm probably way off on this, as I'm an Engineering major, but there's my two cents...

P.S. I will once again reiterate that I am an Engineering major. So if your professor rips your assignment apart, don't be sending me any hate mail, cool?
Added by: Leah
the child in the poem has got to be a girl because it seems to represent elizabeth when she was a child and how she lived with her grandmother.

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