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by Elizabeth Bishop

Analysis: 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 about it though, the straightforward title followed by a pretty complicated, zany poem is totally typical of Bishop. She wears the mask of the by-the-book schoolteacher, then totally undercuts that expectation with her strange manipulation of the form and use of wacky imagery. She could have easily titled it something crazy like, "Brown Tears in September's Cup," or "Equinoctial Tea Kettle," but she went for the surprise effect, and if you ask us, it worked.

Those if you who were expecting a boring old repetitive sestina are in for a delightful surprise.

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