The Most Beautiful State of Confusion

As soon as I started reading this week’s poems I knew why the unit was called “the difficult in the easy” (or whatever it was actually titled. I’m going to be honest, I was too lazy to look up the actual unit title. Don’t judge me). The ones I want to focus on, however, are Elizabeth Bishop’s. Both “The Fish” and “In The Waiting Room” struck a chord with me. Both of these poems seemed so simple. Reading them was so easy it was almost scary. They were also incredibly enjoyable to read, because I was never confused about words or content, and I could just nod and follow along. That being said, I know for a fact that I missed the point in both of them, though “The Fish” more than “In The Waiting Room.”

The writing and imagery in both of Bishop’s poems are beautiful. Her way of describing things in a prose-like description style is captivating and visceral. I’ve never pictured a fish so perfectly in my mind’s eye before. This, above other reasons, is why I loved these poems.

But that brings me to the “however.” However, I don’t know what the point was. I got a gist, of how the fish was beautiful and Bishop could see the life in the fish, which is why she tossed him back, but I feel like there’s a deeper meaning that I’m missing. Somehow this almost felt more alienating than confusing-as-hell pieces like “the Bridge” where I knew why I was missing what I was missing. It was very irksome to read something and know all the words and follow along, but feel like I was only scratching the surface of content.

Another thing I’d like to bring up, which is definitely unrelated, is that “In The Waiting Room” reminded me so much of Whitman’s “Crossing the Brooklyn Ferry” in the way that she brought us and herself into 1918, in the time of the National Geographic she was reading. I’m still not sure what the significance of most of the poem was, but I definitely appreciated it and enjoyed (what I thought was) the nod to Whitman.


P.S. As I’m tagging this week’s post, I realize that this week’s unit title is “Everyday Difficulty,” but I thought I was being clever, so I’m leaving my post as it is.

One comment

  • The difficult in the easy indeed, haha. I’m glad you liked these poems so much, and in particular, that you responded to Bishop’s incredible capacity for description. While I think it’s important to consider the “deeper” meanings in play, I think it’s also fair to say that, with a poem like “The Fish,” the beauty and precision of description may be an end in itself. If we approach the poem from that direction, a new question emerges: what is at stake in careful and thorough description? Why do we value it, find it enjoyable, etc., and how does Bishop go about achieving it so successfully?

Leave a Reply