Reading Elizabeth Bishop's "Artifact of [Words]"

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


As Emerson noted in his essay 'The Poet' "we are not pans and barrows, not even porters of the fire and torch-bearers, but children of the fire, made of it, and only the same divinity transmuted, and at two or three removes, when we least know about it." For Emerson, the fire is poetry, an elemental force capable of transmutation, transformation and enduring relevance. Moving from Emerson, Elizabeth Bishop rises as the twentieth-century poet most aligned with the possibility of poetry and the powers of its practice, as 'At The Fishhouses' indicates in her clear referencing of Emerson:

"If you should dip your hand in,
your wrist would ache immediately,
your bones would begin to ache and your hand would burn
as if the water were a transmutation of fire
that feeds on stones and burns with a dark gray flame."

This essay will look in detail at Bishop's understanding of the possibility of poetry and how art functions as a multi-dimensional structure that is unsettled as much as it unsettles. In particular, Bishop's poem 'The Monument' will be unpicked as testament both to the practice of Bishop's art and also the role of the poet critic responding to what they uncover
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMaintaining a Place: Conditions of Metaphor in Modern American Literature. Literature Essays and Poems in honour of Ron Callan
EditorsMaria Stuart, Fionnghuala Sweeney, Fionnuala Dillane
Place of PublicationDublin
PublisherUCD Press
Number of pages14
ISBN (Print)9781906359843
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2014


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