Surface observations

September 2, 2010

Bishop seems fascinated with the terrestrial.  Her book opens with a description of a map and her thoughts of what it represents of the real formations of the earth.  Then we read her description of travelling from the way the city takes over the land and the country begs it to slow down.  There continues to be a very earthy tone in “The Monument,” confusing wood and clouds and sea, finding woodgrains in them all. “A sea of narrow, horrizontal boards/lies out behind our lonely monument, / its long grains alternating right and left/ like floor-boards–spotted, swarming-still,/ and motionless. A sky runs parallel,/ and its palings, coarser than the sea’s:/ splintery sunlight and long-fibred clouds.”  “The Believer” acts as another poem that takes the Earth as a subject, but it has the twist of whether it is something that works for us (“He said: “up here/ I tower through the sky/ for the marble wings on my tower-top fly.”) or a power acting against us: “The spangled sea below wants me to fall./ It is hard as diamonds; it wants to destroy us all.”  The poem has a feeling of faith and perception about its subject matter, but the Earth is what we have faith in, instead of a divine power.

The “Man-Moth,” however, takes and earthy subject and sends him on a quest to investigate the hole in the sky (the moon).  It has a sense of supernatural and otherworldness to it, and I enjoyed it for the out-of-body feel it had.

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