Questions of Travel and Rhyme

September 7, 2010

After reading Questions of Travel, I felt that it was important to mention how Bishop plays with language. In many of her poems there is a regular rhyme scheme. For instance “The Burglar of Babylon” begins with the stanza:

On the fair green hills of Rio

There grows a fearful stain:

The poor who come to Rio

And can’t go home again. (112)

The first and third lines of this stanza rhyme merely because the word “Rio” is repeated, yet the second and fourth lines are slant rhymed. In the rest of her poem, Bishop continues to rhyme the second and fourth lines of her stanzas. In the fourth stanza, the slant rhyme returns as bishop rhymes “come” with “catacomb”. Additionally “The Armadillo” is marked by a regular rhyme scheme, however what makes Bishop unique in her usage of language are the embedded rhymes, and echos of rhymes that one can find in poems like “Song for the Rainy Season”. In the last stanza Bishop writes:

the great rock will stare

unmagnetized, bare,


the forgiving air (102)

This stanza is an example of how Bishop creates these echoes within her poems. By creating a rhyming couplet and then later ending a line with a word that continues the rhyme. Bishop is not only connecting ideas but playing with sound and the way the human reader will hear her work.

Additionally, in “Squatter’s Children” Bishop writes, ” apparently the rain’s reply/ consists of echolalia”(95). I found this poem to be one where Bishop became most innovative in her usage of sound and rhyme. ¬†Every stanza ends with a rhyming couplet, yet within the poem there are also the echos that I previously mentioned. Yet this poem is also a good example of the repetitions that Bishop embeds in many of her poems. ¬†She writes, ” they play, a specklike girl and boy/alone, but near a specklike house”(95). The repetition almost acts like the echolalia that Bishop writes about, however for the reader it accomplishes something unique. When one examines the repetition in ” Visits to St. Elizabeths” the words “that lies in the house of Bedlam” have a constantly evolving meaning that changes and deepens with every stanza.

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