'Questions Of Travel' by Elizabeth Bishop
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Questions Of Travel1965There are too many waterfalls here; the crowded streamshurry too rapidly down to the sea,and the pressure of so many clouds on the mountaintopsmakes them spill over the sides in soft slow-motion,turning to waterfalls under our very eyes.--For if those streaks, those mile-long, shiny, tearstains,aren't waterfalls yet,in a quick age or so, as ages go here,they probably will be.But if the streams and clouds keep travelling, travelling,the mountains look like the hulls of capsized ships,slime-hung and barnacled.Think of the long trip home.Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?Where should we be today?Is it right to be watching strangers in a playin this strangest of theatres?What childishness is it that while there's a breath of lifein our bodies, we are determined to rushto see the sun the other way around?The tiniest green hummingbird in the world?To stare at some inexplicable old stonework,inexplicable and impenetrable,at any view,instantly seen and always, always delightful?Oh, must we dream our dreamsand have them, too?And have we roomfor one more folded sunset, still quite warm?But surely it would have been a pitynot to have seen the trees along this road,really exaggerated in their beauty,not to have seen them gesturinglike noble pantomimists, robed in pink.--Not to have had to stop for gas and heardthe sad, two-noted, wooden tuneof disparate wooden clogscarelessly clacking overa grease-stained filling-station floor.(In another country the clogs would all be tested.Each pair there would have identical pitch.)--A pity not to have heardthe other, less primitive music of the fat brown birdwho sings above the broken gasoline pumpin a bamboo church of Jesuit baroque:three towers, five silver crosses.--Yes, a pity not to have pondered,blurr'dly and inconclusively,on what connection can exist for centuriesbetween the crudest wooden footwearand, careful and finicky,the whittled fantasies of wooden footwearand, careful and finicky,the whittled fantasies of wooden cages.--Never to have studied history inthe weak calligraphy of songbirds' cages.--And never to have had to listen to rainso much like politicians' speeches:two hours of unrelenting oratoryand then a sudden golden silencein which the traveller takes a notebook, writes:"
Editor 1 Interpretation
A Journey Through Questions Of Travel by Elizabeth Bishop
Elizabeth Bishop, one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, is best known for her ability to weave together intricate images and emotions into her poems. Her works have touched the hearts of readers worldwide, and her ability to capture the beauty of life's simplest moments is unparalleled. "Questions Of Travel," a collection of poems by Bishop, is a shining example of her poetic prowess.
As the title suggests, the collection is about travel, but it is not just about the physical act of moving from one place to another. It is also about the emotional and psychological journey that we undertake when we travel. Bishop uses her poems to explore this journey, inviting us to explore the world with her as she reflects on the meaning of life, love, and human connection.
"Questions Of Travel" is divided into two parts, with each section exploring a different aspect of travel. The first section, titled "Brazil," focuses on Bishop's experiences in South America. The second section, "Elsewhere," is a more general exploration of travel and its many facets. The poems in this section are more varied and cover a broader range of themes.
The collection begins with the poem "Arrival At Santos," which sets the tone for the rest of the collection. The poem describes Bishop's arrival in Brazil, and her impressions of the country. The poem is filled with vivid imagery, and Bishop's observations of the country's scenery and people are both insightful and poignant.
A Closer Look
One of the most striking aspects of "Questions Of Travel" is Bishop's use of imagery. Her poems are filled with rich and detailed descriptions of the places she visits, and the people she meets. In "Arrival At Santos," for example, Bishop writes:
"Here is a coast; here is a harbor;
here, after a meager diet of horizon, is some scenery:
impractically shaped and—as if among/intricate canals, oddly a schooner rides."
The imagery in this passage is both beautiful and evocative. Bishop's description of the harbor and the schooner is so vivid that the reader can almost feel the sea breeze on their face. This attention to detail is a hallmark of Bishop's poetry, and it is what makes her poems so memorable.
Another aspect of Bishop's poetry that stands out is her use of language. Her poems are written in a clear and concise style, with each word carefully chosen for its meaning and impact. Her use of language is particularly effective in her descriptions of nature. In "The Armadillo," for example, Bishop writes:
"This is the time of year
when almost every night
the frail, illegal fire balloons appear.
Climbing the mountain height,
rising toward a saint
still honored in these parts,
the paper chambers flush and fill with light
that comes and goes, like hearts."
Here, Bishop uses language to create a vivid picture of the fire balloons as they rise into the sky. The use of the word "frail" to describe the balloons gives them a delicate quality, while the comparison to "hearts" adds a layer of emotion to the poem.
Themes and Motifs
At its core, "Questions Of Travel" is about the human experience of travel. Bishop uses her poems to explore the many facets of this experience, from the excitement of discovering new places, to the loneliness and isolation that can come with being far from home. One of the most prominent themes in the collection is the idea of displacement. Bishop often writes about feeling out of place, both physically and emotionally.
In "The Sandpiper," for example, Bishop writes:
"The beach hisses like fat.
On his left, a sheet
of interrupting water
comes and goes
and glazes over his dark and brittle feet."
Here, Bishop uses the image of the sandpiper on the beach to explore the idea of displacement. The bird is out of place in its new environment, just as Bishop often feels out of place in the places she visits.
Another prominent theme in the collection is the idea of connection. Bishop writes about the connections we make with other people, as well as the connections we make with the places we visit. In "Questions Of Travel," Bishop writes:
"Is it lack of imagination that makes us come
to imagined places, not just stay at home?
Or could Pascal have been not entirely right
about just sitting quietly in one's room?"
Here, Bishop is exploring the idea that travel allows us to connect with the world in a way that is impossible when we stay at home. She suggests that there is something deeply human about the desire to explore and connect with the world around us.
"Questions Of Travel" is a stunning collection of poetry that explores the human experience of travel in all its complexity. Bishop's use of vivid imagery and clear language create a world that is both beautiful and haunting, and her exploration of themes such as displacement and connection will resonate with readers long after they have finished reading the collection.
In the end, what makes "Questions Of Travel" such a powerful work of literature is Bishop's ability to capture the essence of the human experience. Her poems are not just about travel, but about what it means to be alive and to explore the world around us. For anyone who has ever felt the pull of wanderlust, or who has ever longed for something more, "Questions Of Travel" is a must-read.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry Questions Of Travel: A Journey Through Elizabeth Bishop's Mind
Elizabeth Bishop, one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, is known for her ability to capture the essence of a moment and convey it through her poetry. Her work is characterized by its vivid imagery, attention to detail, and a deep sense of introspection. One of her most famous poems, "Questions of Travel," is a perfect example of her unique style and ability to explore complex themes through simple, yet powerful, language.
The poem begins with a series of questions that seem to be directed at the reader. "There are too many waterfalls here; the crowded streams / hurry too rapidly down to the sea, / and the pressure of so many clouds on the mountaintops / makes them spill over the sides in soft slow-motion, / turning to waterfalls under our very eyes." These lines immediately set the tone for the poem, which is one of contemplation and reflection. The speaker is questioning the value of travel and whether it is worth the effort to see all of these natural wonders.
As the poem progresses, the speaker begins to explore the idea of home and what it means to be away from it. "Is it lack of imagination that makes us come / to imagined places, not just stay at home?" This line is particularly poignant, as it speaks to the idea that we often seek out new experiences and places because we are not satisfied with our current situation. We are always searching for something more, something that will make us feel alive and fulfilled.
The poem then takes a darker turn, as the speaker begins to question the very nature of travel itself. "Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?" This line is a powerful indictment of the idea that travel is a form of escapism. The speaker is suggesting that perhaps we should focus on our own lives and the places we already know, rather than constantly seeking out new experiences.
The final stanza of the poem is perhaps the most powerful, as the speaker reflects on the idea of mortality and the fleeting nature of life. "Oh, must we dream our dreams / and have them, too? / And have we room / for one more folded sunset, still quite warm?" These lines are a reminder that life is short and that we should cherish every moment we have. The speaker is suggesting that perhaps we should focus on the present, rather than constantly seeking out new experiences and places.
Overall, "Questions of Travel" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that explores complex themes such as the nature of travel, the meaning of home, and the fleeting nature of life. Elizabeth Bishop's unique style and ability to capture the essence of a moment make this poem a true masterpiece of modern poetry. Whether you are a seasoned traveler or someone who prefers to stay close to home, this poem is sure to resonate with you and leave you with a sense of introspection and reflection.
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