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Song for the Rainy Season -- Elizabeth Bishop

Guest poem submitted by Dustin Smith:
(Poem #1469) Song for the Rainy Season
 Hidden, oh hidden
 in the high fog
 the house we live in,
 beneath the magnetic rock,
 rain-, rainbow-ridden,
 where blood-black
 bromelias, lichens,
 owls, and the lint
 of the waterfalls cling,
 familiar, unbidden.

 In a dim age
 of water
 the brook sings loud
 from a rib cage
 of giant fern; vapor
 climbs up the thick growth
 effortlessly, turns back,
 holding them both,
 house and rock,
 in a private cloud.

 At night, on the roof,
 blind drops crawl
 and the ordinary brown
 owl gives us proof
 he can count:
 five times -- always five --
 he stamps and takes off
 after the fat frogs that,
 shrilling for love,
 clamber and mount.

 House, open house
 to the white dew
 and the milk-white sunrise
 kind to the eyes,
 to membership
 of silver fish, mouse,
 bookworms,
 big moths; with a wall
 for the mildew's
 ignorant map;

 darkened and tarnished
 by the warm touch
 of the warm breath,
 maculate, cherished;
 rejoice! For a later
 era will differ.
 (O difference that kills
 or intimidates, much
 of all our small shadowy
 life!) Without water

 the great rock will stare
 unmagnetized, bare,
 no longer wearing
 rainbows or rain,
 the forgiving air
 and the high fog gone;
 the owls will move on
 and the several
 waterfalls shrivel
 in the steady sun.
-- Elizabeth Bishop
In "Song for the Rainy Season," Bishop's celebrated observational and
descriptive techniques -- her famous "eye" -- are trained both on a
cherished, worn house she lives in and on that house's close,
subtropical surroundings. As usual, insight grows subtly from
accumulated details of the physical world; Bishop never thrusts her
meaning into the reader's face. Like the poem's insights, its loose, or
open, rhyme scheme -- a scheme Bishop would develop more and more --
creeps into one's awareness as the poem goes on, and during later
readings. Thumpingly regular, metronomic rhyming is forgotten in favor
of a more flexible and subtle rhyme scheme. The poem's short lines
establish a breathless rhythm. They also insure that every word stands
out by not losing its power in a line crowded with other words: As
Bishop apparently reveres the place she's describing, she necessarily
reveres each word she uses to describe it. (Reading the poem aloud is a
good way to illuminate this notion of breathlessness and reverence via
short lines. Also, the poem's short lines and unexpected rhymes create a
particularly dynamic rhythm when read aloud.) ... One of the greatest
poems by one of the greatest poets. (She deserved that Pulitzer.)

Dustin Smith
Brooklyn Heights, New York.

17 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

lpaganin said...

In "Song for the Rainy Season," Bishop's celebrated observational and
descriptive techniques -- her famous "eye" -- are trained both on a
cherished, worn house she lives in and on that house's close,
subtropical surroundings. As usual, insight grows subtly from
accumulated details of the physical world; Bishop never thrusts her
meaning into the reader's face.

Like the poem's insights, its loose, or open, rhyme scheme -- a scheme
Bishop would develop more and more -- creeps into ones awareness
as the poem goes on, and during later readings. Thumpingly
regular, metronomic rhyming is forgotten in favor of a more flexible
and subtle rhyme scheme.

The poem's short lines establish a breathless rhythm. They also insure
that every word stands out by not losing its power in a line crowded with
other words: As Bishop apparently reveres the place she's describing,
she necessarily reveres each word she uses to describe it. (Reading the
poem aloud is a good way to illuminate this notion of breathlessness and
reverence via short lines. Also, the poem's short lines and unexpected
rhymes create a particularly dynamic rhythm when read aloud.)

...One of the greatest poems by one of the greatest poets. (She deserved
that Pulitzer.)

Dustin Smith
Brooklyn Heights, New York.

Anonymous said...

dude. thats exactly what the thing says up above you dumbASS.

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