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Questions of Travel

Questions of Travel


by Elizabeth Bishop

Analysis: Form and Meter

Free Verse

Bishop loved her some free verse, and she didn't hold back in "Questions of Travel." Free verse basically means that the poem doesn't have a set form, rhyme, or metrical scheme. But don't get too excited, we still have some work to do. It's not just a crazy free-for-all.

Shmoop likes to think of this poem in terms of the three basic structural elements that hold it together: questions, answers, and italicized quotations.

Questions: The poem is filled with them. This is pretty obvious.

Answers: Let's get more specific here. Remember all of those dashes scattered throughout the second half of the poem? Well, they're a form of organization, too. The answers that come after them (as unsatisfying and confusing as they may be) form a list. Not a simple grocery list, but a complex web-like list of experiences and thoughts, memories and moments.

Italicized quotations: This is what we call a formal shift (dun dun dun). With the change in form, we suddenly have a new perspective on the poem. Suddenly, we're reading over this traveler's shoulder (instead of mainlining into her brain). (For more on this, check out what we have to say in the "Summary" section.)

"Questions of Travel" may not be a sonnet or a villanelle (we know you love them), but it is structured with the best of 'em. Anyone who thought free verse was only for the loosey-goosey, think again.

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