Questions of Travel
by Elizabeth Bishop
The speaker of "Questions of Travel" never gives us much identifying information about herself. We don't know the color of her hair or her favorite snack food. But by the end of the poem, we know quite a bit about her.
She's a deep thinker. She asks herself a lot of questions. She seeks new experiences and evaluates them. She's read important philosophers like Pascal. And, most importantly, she has a serious eye for detail. (And an ear for detail too!)
She pays attention to the tiniest elements of life—the "disparate wooden clogs / carelessly clacking," that are "careful and finicky." That's a whole lot of detail for something as mundane as an old pair of shoes. The speaker is a contemplative, introspective, and thoughtful lady, who isn't afraid to ask the hard questions in life, or sweat the small stuff either.
If we're going to be completely honest, we have to say that the speaker sounds a whole lot like Elizabeth Bishop herself—a contemplative, well-read writer and traveler who asks life's deep questions. But, we have no reason to think that the speaker is a carbon copy of the poet.
Let's say, instead, that the speaker is a "figure" of the poet. She's a fictional representation of her. She seems a whole lot like Bishop herself, but we can never really know the extent of their similarities; Bishop has been dead for over thirty years, so we're just not qualified to say that the speaker is the poet.