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by Elizabeth Bishop

Sestina Analysis

Symbols, Imagery, Wordplay

Form and Meter

Let's get to the bottom of this whirlpool of a form. Some poetic forms are subtle and often flexible, like the sonnet. But the sestina has the handcuffs on just about as tight as they will go witho...


Our speaker is an outside observer, through and through. For a poem with such emotional baggage, though, it seems like an odd choice. But think about it this way: since we're coming at this from an...


It was a dark and story night. Okay, so really it's daytime. And our two characters are cozy in their house. But still, it's September, and there's some rain and chill. So it's not all sunshine and...

What's Up With the Title?

Bishop isn't exactly famous for her wild titles. She calls it as it is and titles the poem after its form: "Sestina." It might not be interesting, but at least we know what to expect. If you think...

Calling Card

Bishop loves to lull you into a sense of safety and security. She's not shy of formal poetry (think also of her famous villanelle, "One Art"), and even when she's not using form, she writes very ti...


Okay, we'll admit, it's not so easy to get everything in this poem, so to speak. But once you decide to give in to some of the weirdness and wackiness, you have a lot of interpretive freedom in thi...


Not to be a bummer or anything, but we've got to tell you that Bishop's father died when she was eight months old, and her mother was committed to a mental institution. In her early years she was r...

Steaminess Rating

This is a poem for all ages. It's grandmother and child friendly.

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